A few weekends ago, I went on a fair ride with my son. I’m talking one of those travelling, pack-up-and-go-from-town-to-town, kinda sketchy, kinda rickety, usually-barfed-on-rides fairs. He was super-duper excited about going on a ride with Mummy, and who was I to deny my child this experience with his mother?
I gently tried to sway him from the spinning, dipping rides as seeing me vomit wasn’t really how I wanted him to have this fair-ride experience. Bless his heart, he agreed the twirly-gig ones didn’t look very fun. But he did settle on a large oval Ferris-wheel type ride that featured hanging two-seater umbrella structures that left your feet dangling with nothing more than a metal bar loosely across your lap for safety.
The ride arched up well above the trees. As I watched it spin round and round my knees felt weak, my mouth went dry and I felt just as queasy as I likely would have had I just opted for the damn twirly ride that blissfully stayed firmly planted on the ground.
I’m petrified of heights. Sweaty-palm, frozen-to-the-spot, instant-tears fucking petrified of heights. I’ve never liked them. I never will.
In this moment I had a choice: Be who you’ve always thought you were or get on the damn ride with your 4-year-old and possibly discover something new about yourself.
I got on the ride.
Owen loved it. He whooped and pointed things out as we soared above the trees. He kept asking if I was OK. Kept asking why my voice sounded funny when I talked. Kept telling me to open my eyes. And the funny thing is, when he asked me these things, I did them. I can’t say I enjoyed the ride, but I did it. Sure I was shaking like a leaf when we eventually got off, but I did it.
That creaky metal fair ground ride — called UFO Area 51, I believe — taught me I’m a shit load stronger mentally and emotionally than I ever gave myself credit for. And surviving that 1:30 second ride made me abnormally proud.
Discovering who we are as people, and I mean who we really are deep down, is a life-long process. It’s one that takes time, effort, perseverance, and a certain sense of wonder and fear mixed together in equal doses. Self-discovery is as scary as it is exciting, and I’m not even sure a majority of the general population ever truly discovers who they are, fully.
That makes me sad.
And then I think: Shit, Miranda, have you even discovered a portion of who YOU really are?
Then that makes me sad all over again.
But should it?
I’m the first to admit that I’ve learned more about myself as a person (a mother, friend, lover, employee, athlete [ha ha], partner) over the past few years than I have in all my years, so far. The journey of self-discovery has been an interesting one full of fucked up moments and joyous occasions. All the friends and enemies I created, family births and deaths, my marriage, my child, my affair, my freedom; and through it all me discovering bits and pieces of myself I didn’t even know needed discovering.
I spent all of my teenage years and well into my 20s believing I knew who I was. Shy, quiet, reserved, bookworm. The chubby little blonde whose parents were teachers. The good one who did all her homework. The one who followed all the rules.
And yet that wasn’t me at all.
When I was 15 years old, I was given a friend’s older sister’s ID that made me 22 years old, which is fucking hilarious: I think about it now and the bouncers who believed that ID must have just felt sorry for me. I mean, the average age I’m given at the moment is 23-24 and I’m about to turn a decade older than that in a month … so at 15 I can only surmise I looked to be about 8 years old as I sashayed my way into various downtown clubs wearing too-short skirts and too-heavy makeup.
Of course, we all have stories like that from our teenage years. I’m not in any way special for drinking as young as I did, for losing my virginity at the age I did or for attending the house parties I did when my parents thought I was elsewhere studying or just hanging out with girlfriends. No, that was normal.
What wasn’t was how I never wanted to accept that. I never wanted to admit that I liked that, that I wasn’t just this shy reserved little thing that would rather sit at home alone and read instead of hang out with lots of people, listen to loud music, and even throw out a highly uncoordinated dance move once in awhile. I liked the idea of rebelling a little. I liked the idea of doing what I wanted instead of what I was told to do.
And that charade of “goodness” lasted well into my 20s. Into my marriage. Into my work. Into my pregnancy. Into my first few months of motherhood.
Wait, “goodness” is the wrong word. I mean, I wasn’t a good wife most of the time (and clearly not at all near the end…), I often fucked up at work, I definitely drank the occasional coffee and ate sushi while I was pregnant, and I was by NO means a perfect mother those first few months.
No, what I mean is… Just like so many people I see in the world around me, I was giving everyone around me the version of me I thought they wanted to see.
Is it that all these people haven’t yet discovered the real them? Do they not know? Have they not explored enough? Have they not investigated? Perhaps they just don’t care … but I see the shroud, this shield that society puts up.
Break through shield on your own and wow. Do it with another person and my god is it every fucking glorious.
Over the past year I’ve unearthed more about myself than I ever thought possible. In fact, I’ve discovered facets of myself and my personality I never imagined in a million years could or would exist.
It was rough. And it should be.
If it was easy to be your true self, don’t you think more people would be?
I’m still discovering the “real” me to this day. She’s mostly out and about, but not quite. Sometimes I surprise myself with an emotional reaction or thought about a situation. I actually stop and ask myself, “Miranda, really? That’s how we’re gonna handle this?”
And I realize talking to myself in the third person while living alone with a 4-year-old and two cats is never going to end well, but hear me out…
So, I often ask myself, “Miranda, is this really how you feel and how you want to proceed with this?”
And the thing is; it is. That day on the fair ground I asked myself that same question (likely out loud because I was secretly trying not to cry and freak out while in line with Owen), “Miranda, are you really going to do this? Go on that ride that goes ALL THE WAY UP THERE?”
And yes, yes I was. Because inside, I knew I could. Somewhere in me, the real me was screaming how stupid I was being and that of course I had the balls to get on the ride and enjoy it with my super excited son.
Through all of this self-discovery and learning who I am the most important lesson I’ve learned is this: LISTEN TO YOURSELF.
For the most part, this is an excellent piece of advice.
Want a new job? Seek one out and apply yourself. Want to get fit? Believe you can and don’t give up. Want to connect with someone and fall in love? Open up and allow them in, and believe you deserve to be loved because you do. Want to be a good parent? Be there for your child, listen to them, support them, and encourage them. Want more life experience? Get out there and explore. Talk to strangers. Do things you wouldn’t normally do, like get on a sketchy fair ground ride with a 4-year-old.