Photo by Ellie Thoma
I’m crying. Not loud enough for my mom to hear in the room next to mine, but quiet enough for my low sobs to disturb the silence that rang through my bedroom minutes before.
I can’t tie my shoes.
Concentrating on my neon pink laces, my 17-year-old self is transported to Kindergarten. There’s a bulletin board to my right with pictures of toothless smiles proudly holding up a laced shoe – members of the Shoe-tying Club. I’m yearning to be on that board as I struggle with my laces when I hear my teacher’s voice. She’s singing a song about bunny ears.
I’m back in my room. I know that shoe-tying should be muscle memory, but in this moment, the muscles on my leg have forgotten how to function – I can’t bend my knee to reach my laces.
This was four months ago. Hydrocodone and anesthesia clouded my motor skills from the previous night’s surgery on my ACL and meniscus. My headstrong thoughts harassed me. I thought didn’t need the help. I thought adults accomplished everything by themselves, so in order to prove my competence, I had to do this alone.
I was wrong.
Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me.
The pain was dull and deep as currents shot up my newly repaired knee. I reached for my laces yet again, but the sensation was too much.
In that moment I grew small. What else in my body would refuse to function? I attempted to shift my right leg without my arms as support, but it would not budge.
It was then that my hyper-dependence hit me. Throughout the next month my friends and family would be forced to haul me up staircases, clear the front row for my crutches at lacrosse games and chauffeur me to and from newspaper meetings. Normally, I would feel too proud or guilty to receive this assistance, but this time would be different. I would have to accept the help.
I looked down at my laces and called for my mom.
Bunny ears, Bunny ears, jumped into the hole.
I thrust myself into a world of vulnerability. With earnest eyes and an eagerness to help, my mom knotted my shoes up within seconds. I thanked her – it was that easy. It was the first time in my life that the wall I had secured around my pride came tumbling down.
Popped out the other side beautiful and bold.
I had reached the other side. And now, on the cusp of my 18th birthday, I realize that adulthood is being comfortable enough with yourself to with ask for help and accept it with grace. It takes a different kind of self-awareness to be able to do so – a kind that makes an individual both beautiful and bold.
Nothing can be accomplished alone. No one person can make up a choir. No research paper goes without an edit. No brainstorm is successful without a team.
Sometimes, a girl can’t tie her shoes alone.