Last Saturday, I went out to dinner near downtown with some friends and I was late due to a ridiculous series of circumstances. By the time I arrived, the parking garage was pretty full and I had to park in the basement level. I backed into a space as close to the stairwell as possible, knowing that was probably the safest idea since I was alone.
My friends and I had some delicious sushi and a great visit. We talked about going somewhere else for a drink, but it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and none of us felt like being around a bunch of drunks. We said good-bye on the second level of the parking garage where they'd parked and I made my way down the several flights of stairs to my car. It was getting late and I could see as I made it to the landing there weren't many cars remaining in the vicinity.
I heard them before I saw them, eight or nine guys on motorcycles, engines revving at an ear-piercing volume. Shit. They were occupying the three parking spaces adjacent the driver's side of my car, as well as part of the aisle in front of where I'd parked.
I know not to judge a book by its cover. Just because a few of them were wearing ski masks and at least one was heavily tattooed on his face and neck, doesn't mean they were intending to be menacing. Maybe they were just some suburban soccer-dads out blowing off steam after a long, hard week in the trenches. Maybe.
But I saw them there and I got pissed that I didn't feel safe. I got pissed that my initial reaction was to be scared. I got pissed and I squared my shoulders and clenched my jaw and looked straight ahead and walked confidently over to my car. I met the gaze of the guy closest to my car and did that half-nod acknowledgement thing as I approached. I didn't even lock the door once I got inside the car, because I didn't want to seem scared. I started the engine and pulled out of my parking spot, giving myself a mental pat-on-the-back for having backed in when I parked because that allowed me to easily navigate around the guys who were partially blocking the aisle.
The two in the ski masks followed me all the way to the exit floor of the garage, revving their bike engines behind me at every stop sign, before finally circling back around to a lower level as I made my exit. It wasn't until I'd left the garage that I let myself think, "What the hell did you just do? You didn't even check to see if anyone else was around! No one would have heard you scream over all that noise. There MIGHT have been security cameras, but what are the chances they are being watched that closely? What is wrong with you?"
This is not the first time I've done something like that, the getting pissed that I feel like I need to be scared when I have a right to feel safe, and then doing something that in hindsight was probably unwise. Why is it that I can be recklessly brave when it comes to my physical safety, but when it comes to trusting my heart and my head, I let other people get to me? I’ve been thinking about this for days, and I realized something:
Remember the post where I wrote that growing up I learned to doubt so many things about myself? How I learned to doubt my heart and my mind and my thoughts and what I knew to be true? And remember how I said I didn't want to go back there?
I realized I have not truly left that behind and that I still let people make me doubt myself, even when I know I'm right. I let people tell me to be careful with my line of thinking and then I begin to wonder if I have the ability to really understand what I learn. I let people make me feel that I’ve misunderstood something when, no matter how many ways I look at it, I know that I haven’t. I let the words of other people make me scared to trust myself.
And now that I’ve been thinking about it, that pisses me off just as much as when I feel scared for my safety.
I’m pissed that when I say something true, I can be made to doubt it because the person I say it to doesn’t like the way it sounds. I am mad because I let the way other people question me turn me back into that 15 year old who knew with all her heart that something was wrong, but whose voice was silenced for being a girl and daring to speak up and rock the proverbial boat. And I don’t want to be that girl who gives in and doubts what she knows to be true, because being that girl pisses me off.
I'm pissed and I'm done.
I know I've stated that learning to listen is a priority for me. But I realized today that there is a difference between listening to someone else for the purpose of understanding them and listening to the point of being silenced. I do need to listen to others and strive to understand, but I need to listen to me too. When it comes to what I know and what I can tell is true, I've got to be recklessly brave about owning it. I’ve got to be recklessly brave in the right ways and about the right things, other people’s fears and baggage be damned.
I'm done buying into the bullshit that my mind and heart need someone else to tell them what to think and what to feel. I'm done giving too much time to anyone who tells me that my heart and mind can't be trusted when I know they are in the right place. And I've decided I'd rather stick to my guns and be wrong and later have to admit I was wrong than to buy into bullshit and regret it.
I may need to be a little more careful about my physical safety, but I've got the reckless bravery thing down. It's time I put it to good use.