Deadlines. We all have them, whether created consciously or subconsciously. Mature and self-aware people usually form deadlines based on what they want to accomplish and do with their lives that will be fulfilling and beneficial to others. Growing up, I mostly created my deadlines from what I saw on television that looked pretty darn cool, or what my friends were doing at the time that I thought was an awesome idea. After watching the 1988 Summer Olympics, my 6 year old self thought I was going to have a gold medal for gymnastics by the age of 16. After my mom signed me up for classes, I realized on the first day that all I really wanted was to wear sparkly eyeshadow and have my face on a Wheaties box. I had no desire to stunt my growth and create an abnormally large curve in my back.
Though that was one that never came into fruition, I did take my childhood deadlines very seriously. I still remember the day I graduated from my stylin’ hot pink training wheels to my purple and pink “Sweet Sixteen” 10 speed. It was July 4th of 1989 and I was going to take her out for a long awaited spin. My first riding attempt started off how I imagine Lance Armstrong’s did – I was living strong before I even knew what it meant. With a little push from my dad, I was peddling away. I was doing it; I was riding a bike on my own. I felt invincible in my matching purple and pink outfit, my ponytail happily bopping with each stride.
After a solid couples of blocks I decided it was time to see what this pretty little thing could do. I took a cocky sharp turn in hopes that my neighborhood friends were watching so I could visually brag about how darn good I looked on two wheels instead of four. What I didn’t prepare myself for was my training-wheeled-muscle-memory coming into action. I was used to carelessly turning onto a tiny side wheel which prevented me from a fall. Something did brake my fall, but this time it wasn’t a tiny hot pink side wheel. It was a parked car. Before I could shout out for rescue, my tire hit the front bumper, both of my hands extended out in automatic instinct slapping against the green paint, my face quickly followed while my entire 7 year old body slid down the front of the car ever so slowly. Sweet Sixteen went right into the garage after that. Yet I still gave her a birthday wash every Fourth of July. She did after all help me complete my goal. Even though it came with a scratched up knee and bruised baby-sized ego.
The next summer of 1990 came, and I decided it was time to swim on my own. I loved my water wings, but it was getting really old trying to swim underwater when they were specifically designed to keep me from doing so. I was meant to play the role of graceful mermaid, and my aqua assistance was keeping me from the Mermaid Kingdom. When my stubborn and maturing mind decided that I was ready, I slowly let the air out of each wing while my floaty-device-loving life of 8 years flashed through my mind. I quickly came to my senses, shook off the sadness and started “swimming.”
My first instinct was that of a Golden Retriever’s – short, quick paddles followed by long, forceful kicks. On that perfect hot summer day I dog paddled like I never dog paddled before. The Mermaid Kingdom was mine – until I was terrorized as I tried dipping my head underwater without plugging my nose. Another goal was suddenly upon me, but I thought it better to wait until the next summer. “One summer at a time, nimble mermaid,” I said to myself as I dog paddled away. “One summer at a time.”
As a child with a competitive nature, I knew without a doubt that winning a contest was also going on my short life’s list. I wasn’t sure which contest it was going to be for, but what I did know is that the victory would taste sweet on my macaroni and cheese loving taste buds. When the pizza selling contest was announced during my 6th grade year, I knew, as Oprah tells us now, “preparation had met opportunity.”
I have vivid memories of selling that pizza door to door. My mom told me people like to buy things from children, so I put on my green velvet Converse and walked the mile radius around my house in extreme confidence. One house in particular is still embedded in my mind. I rang the doorbell, and the door opened to a man who must have been in his early 20’s. He was in a towel, fresh out of the shower – McSteamy style. He looked surprised to see a little girl standing there. Was he expecting someone else? I’m not sure, but he excused himself to put something on. He then bought more pizzas than I ever could have imagined. This sell put me over the top and I therefore won the contest. But in the end… did I really win? Was my win soaked with one man’s guilt of ending my precious innocence during my feeble attempt to win a 6th grade pizza selling contest? Maybe, but the prize was worth it.
The winning prize was a ride in a limo and a write up in the local paper. I felt like I was walking on air when my name was announced as the winner at the all school assembly – it was worth every bit of shattered innocence. I didn’t come down from my blissful state until I saw my winning picture in the paper. There I was, standing next to my school principal and fellow winners. Having had an early growth spurt, it looked like a family portrait. Maybe I should have stuck with the gymnastics lessons – then maybe my peers wouldn’t have looked like my children. To top it all off the limo was brown, had a broken down TV, and our ride was to the local Wendys. I ate my grilled chicken sandwich in a cloud of despair. I didn’t even order a Frosty. I know.
I still create subconscious goals and deadlines for myself, even though they pretty much never turn out as I imagine they would. Myself at 15 figured I would have a kid in kindergarten by now. The closest thing I currently have in common to anything in kindergarten is an extensive collection of sparkling gel pens, and the ability to think that if I start ballet lessons tomorrow I could be in next year’s production of the Nutcracker. It may literally be a kindergarten production, but you better believe I will beat out those kids for the lead role. But with my luck I would be cast as the Rat King.
At least he gets to wear a crown.