Where Are Your Wings?

At the end of every class, I like to end with a “launch,” where I share some bit of inspiration to send students off in their day. I have a few of the cliche quotes, and some of the funny ones–a cupcake is just a muffin who believed in itself. 

My launch for Friday is still plaguing me with questions of how I live my life:

I remember the day I realized I had to use my own wings for the first time. It was my freshman year at CSU and our professor for my Honors seminar required us to challenge ourselves on this ropes course a few miles away from campus. Though I hadn’t done anything like it, I kept my morning routine: a cup of coffee and an hour at the Rec center. It was arm day. That seems like an insignificant detail, but it made quite the difference in the tale. I walked over with some friends, about a 3-4 mile walk.

The concept of the course was simple: one by one we had to complete the obstacle course. I was a bit nervous, knowing my history of always being picked last for any sports team in gym class, but at CSU, I was reinventing myself. I was no longer the shy, quiet one in class, but a confident participant. I was determined to not crack this facade, so I was going to participate without any qualms, even though I was terrified.

I managed the first few obstacles without drawing any attention to myself, but then I had to conquer the swinging ropes. I was about to make it across when the effects of my upper body work out hit and gave out. I fell. Of course, I was buckled in so I was just swinging like a pendulum underneath the ropes. At this point, everyone gasped. Embarrassed at my error, I tried to reach for it the ropes and I fell again. I could feel my body in defeat. I couldn’t do it. I started to cry. I knew everyone was looking at me. We couldn’t continue until I got across. Everyone started to chant my name and instead of feeling empowered, I felt humiliated. I hated being the center of attention. I let myself swing in the hopes that the coordinator would come and help me, but he informed me that he couldn’t come up without creating a safety hazard. I was stuck. I let myself swing and panic. I felt my cheeks burn in humiliation as a college freshman crying in front of my classmates. Then, it hit me: The only person who could save me from this moment was me. Not my mom. Not my teacher. Not the coordinator. Not my classmates. Just me. I tried a few more attempts, falling each time. And then I did it. My classmates erupted in cheers. I kept going and finished the course.

I was embarrassed, sure, but for the first time, I realized my autonomy. The control that I had in my life. I had an epiphany: I am responsible for who I am. My choices. My happiness. My life. 

Though I hated that damn ropes course, it was there that I found my wings. 

That moment was over six years ago. I grew into someone I never thought I could. I grew; I changed; I adapted. But somewhere along that journey, my wings were clipped. I let fear of the future and expectation bind my wings. I was afraid of falling. I clung to the branch that held me for fear that without it, I would fall, crashing into rock bottom.

I didn’t anticipate that I could fly. It is not the branch that holds you—it is your determination. You can do it too.

Let yourself fly.

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