She walks through the dark parking lot alone; her stride is strong, her attention unwavering. The black velvet night sky decorated in a blanket of stars looks down upon her as she breathes in the quietness like it’s a fine feast she’s savoring. The stillness of the air is broken only by the hoots and calls of owls and the singing of the cicadas. She hears a sound, faint at first then growing nearer; it sounded like a car engine racing in the distance. She can’t explain why, but her heart immediately started to race at the sound of it.
She inhales slowly and deeply in an attempt to slow her racing heart and as she takes a final look into the darkness, she sees nothing but she feels an instant shift in the air. It could’ve passed for a delta breeze, but it had a chill that carried a foreboding like an unwelcome passenger. She turned to see headlights across the parking lot and from the sound of it, someone was letting all the horses in that engine run loose. It seemed to be coming in her general direction and just when she thought it would pass her by, it took a sharp turn and was on course for a head-on collision or a rigged game of chicken she knew she wouldn’t win. At first, she laughed a bit nervously as she told herself it was more than likely one of her brothers or one of her friends but as the vehicle came closer and the speed increased, she realized it was no one she knew because no one could be this cruel to terrorize her in this way. The headlights found her, lighting her up like a rock star on stage and the horses galloped forward with new gusto; their target had been located and they were locked in.
Now this young lady was famous for her dislike of exercise and very nearly bragged about failing Physical Education in primary school but she found her inner track star that night, I can tell you. That little girl got on her tippy toes and launched her body forward as if Satan, the Wicked Witch of the West and her winged monkeys were all chasing her. She flew across the parking lot, aiming for a small section of the chain link fence that had been cut and replaced a few times before the Powers That Be gave up and left a person-sized opening, which led to the street that led to the street that she lived on with her parents. Home. Safety. Five big strong brothers, a dad and a mom and a big sister that would hide her, protect her and chastise her for being so stupid and reckless, walking alone in the dark parking lot!
What on Earth was she thinking???!
Truth was, she wasn’t thinking. At least not about someone trying to run her ass down in a parking lot a la Christine, the evil Cadillac created by the master, Stephen King himself, but it was upmost in her thoughts at this particular moment. The distance between her and the opening in the fence was getting smaller, as she zigged and zagged, trying to keep her speed but also make herself a difficult, moving target. The car was behind her, teasing and taunting, easing back then leaping forward, the engine roaring like a hungry tiger, ready for some not-so-fast food. Just when she thought she couldn’t run anymore, the opening came into sight and with one last desperate burst, she launched herself through the opening, down the sandy hill of broken glass and trash, not looking back but hearing the maniacal laughter of the sick bastards that had nearly scared her to death and she didn’t stop shaking even after she had crept quietly into the house full of sleeping, snoring, blissfully unaware parents and siblings. Up the stairs on legs of jelly, seeing stars and trying to control her labored breathing, she prayed to a God she thought she didn’t believe in anymore, thanked said God for the family she wasn’t always grateful for and the house that they were all crammed into, for better or for worse.
Looking back on this as a woman of a certain age and vintage, she now knows she was incredibly stupid to go out all by herself at night in an empty parking lot behind a mall anytime past midnight, but she also knows that experience helped her face some of her fears, showed her in real life and real time that she had a brain, she had the intuition to know when the situation wasn’t safe and the intelligence to heed that warning and take action. She didn’t freeze like a deer in the headlights, nor did she assume it was safe and stand there, vulnerable and victim-ready, she was brave. Scared shitless but brave nonetheless. The lessons that stuck with her with the hard ones, the ones that left their mark and she bore the scars as both evidence and a constant reminder of the lesson learned. This was no different; she did a lot of not very bright things, as young and old and all of us do, but she never walked alone in the dark of night in a parking lot. She made choices that let to outcomes she didn’t anticipate, but learned nonetheless. She’s still learning, still making decisions, seemingly good and bad and neither at the same time and will continue to learn those hard lessons and share them with you. The freedom in allowing yourself to make mistakes and to learn from them is truly priceless. Some of us wear shackles we think someone else placed on us, but truly, we have the key and we are the ones who put those shackles on by saying, “I can’t, it won’t be perfect, so I won’t even try” which of course, is absolutely incorrect and wrong in every possible way. Try, muck it up, let the souffle fall and color outside the lines. Color the leaves blue, the flowers black and the sky purple, if that makes you happy and gives you a sense of joy. You are creating, you are a creation and whatever you created will be beautiful for the effort and for the heart and soul you imbibe in whatever venture you set forth to accomplish.
Recognize when you’re brave and you’ve pushed the fear aside or knocked it out with confidence, or perhaps an infusion of reality from a good soul who knows the real you, loves you and reminds you that while you’re not perfect, you are perfectly you and no one could do it better than you and no one ever will. You are an original, one of a kind, ever-changing, evolving work of art; don’t treat yourself like a reproduction of mediocrity. Be brave, whatever that means to you, in whatever way speaks to you.