Once upon a time as a me far, far away, it was the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I had very few friends at the time with driver’s licenses, and none that lived near me. So, because my mother was always driving, it was a rare occasion that I did anything teenagerly. Like the things you see in the movies: sneaking out, staying out late, going to parties. But this week I was dog sitting in town and finally had no curfew and friends willing to drive to my location. Caitlin and Mackenzie picked me up around 11:00 pm and after coning the McDonald’s workers, we headed to Walmart.
Despite the genius that occurred there, we did not come to Walmart with any expectations for what we would achieve. Mind you, this is the era where Vine was all the rage. I had seen videos on Vine reminiscent of the idea that I would have, and looking back, I’m sure that is what convinced me that what I would do was even relatively safe. That night I jumped into a ball pit much larger than the inflatable pool of my childhood. This ball pit was of bouncy balls face-sized and larger, depicting Disney characters, superheroes, butterflies and trucks. They were enclosed by a metal crate, of which I promptly climbed to the top, diving in head first. Caitlin took a short video and Mackenzie ran, sure that I was getting us arrested as I plunged through Cinderellas and Supermen.
We did not get arrested, and surprisingly enough, there was not a single worker that witnessed the scene. We left the store emptyhanded, though hidden beneath my clothing was a large bruise on my knee and a whole lot of pride. I still have the video, and although the video is still one of my favorite forms of entertainment, the moment I chose to climb the frame of that crate has a much greater significance for me.
For me, that moment was one of naïve authenticity. I was more me in that moment than I should have been, putting my safety and reputation on the line. But it was me, it was so me. The opinions of others have always been my last thought: never would I sacrifice my own fun for beauty, composure, or comfort. Never had I ever had a similar experience, but that night I decided to be uncomfortable for the good of the order. I do that habitually now, but in terms of applying for positions and opportunities rather than making bruises.
There are a few things about that moment that scare me, but the thing that scares me most is my own ambition. I like to think that I am hyperaware and in control of my ambition now, but looking back on this moment I realize that I’ve always been experimenting with it. It’s not that I recently picked up the sport of “ambition-awareness” and was a natural, I’ve been practicing for years. I’ve been following my heart and trusting my mind to cover my tracks since this moment or sooner and that’s what’s gotten me here. That is why I go to BGSU, why I am in the Honors program, why I sing the national anthem at sporting events, why I love to greet strangers, the list goes on.
The bouncy balls in the crate that summer night were $2.50. Doing what makes me who I am was priceless.