Starting Over: A Message From my Younger Self

The following two tabs change content below.
Karen Fisher-Alaniz is a freelance writer and published author. She holds a master's degree in education and taught special education for 14-years. She is a frequent speaker on veteran's issues, and teaches workshops on memoir writing. She teaches a life story writing course at her local community college. At midlife, she found herself dealing with health issues, divorce, and the loss of a job she loved. She shares her journey of starting over at midlife on 8 Women Dream every Sunday morning. Her dream is to build a writing life, and find her writing voice, while restoring her 100-year old home. She dreams of writing best-selling books in her own voice. Karen lives in the pacific northwest with her family.
If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.
Starting Over, A Message From my Younger Self: Aim high!

That was embarrassing!

A Message From Myself

At my high school reunion, a couple of former classmates reminded me of an embarrassing moment that happened to me during junior high school. After all the years that had passed, for me, it remained just a bad memory.

But now I couldn’t stop thinking about the incident my classmates remembered so clearly.  Then something happened; slowly I began to realize that within that long-ago embarrassing moment, was a lesson that had waited more than 30-years to be learned.

In fact, the lesson was quite timely.

As I begin my year of dreaming big on 8 Women Dream, my 13-year old self had something to say to my 50-year old self.

Most Embarrassing Moment – Circa 1976

I stood back, willing myself to be as small and unnoticeable as possible. My junior high P.E. class had spent the last week on the field, doing all sorts of track and field activities; sprints, javelin throwing, hurdles, and the long jump. I was O.K. at most of them, though if the teacher wasn’t watching, I’d run between the hurdles instead of leaping over them.

Each day, we did one of the activities so that by the end of the week, we would have done them all.

The long jump was the only thing I had left to do. I’d watched my classmates do it. Most got over the raised pole. A few didn’t – and they had to try again and again. Each time the bar fell, the laughter of our classmates grew louder.

Friday came and I made myself small. I hid between the freakishly tall boys in class. I didn’t make eye contact with the teacher.  One by one, my classmates ran a short distance, then contorted their bodies to clear the bar. With only five minutes left of the class period, my heart pounded. She’d forgotten me. I had succeeded at a move worthy of dodgeball. I’d dodged Ms. Talbot!

“Karen Fisher,” I heard.

She was looking down at her clipboard. I hadn’t even noticed what she was doing with that clipboard before. I just thought it was part of the P.E. teacher paraphernalia – you know; jogging suit, sneakers, whistle, clipboard.

She looked around. I stayed behind Tall Boy. The moment I’d fretted over all week, was finally here. Now, I had no choice.

I stood at the start line, seeing the whole scene for the first time. A pole stretched above a thick blue mat. The mat stretched several feet on each side of the pole. The fact that I would be landing on the mat, however, didn’t alleviate my fears.  Ms. Talbot stood next to me.

“Remember,” she said. “You can go over frontward or backward.”

I started running. Please don’t let the bar fall, I thought. At the last minute, I decided to go over the pole frontward. Mid-air, I was vaguely aware that I’d cleared the pole. I had a milli-second of relief.

It didn’t last long.

Next thing I knew I was on my stomach; I slowly rolled to my back. My body wouldn’t let me get up. Above me was a circle of faces. They weren’t laughing. In fact they looked horrified. Miss Talbot’s face penetrated the circle.

“Karen?” she said. “Are you OK?”

I’m Going to Die

I opened my mouth but nothing came out. I put my hands on my throat and then my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified. I felt my face turning colors. I pushed my stomach out and sucked it back in, as if that would bring breath to my lungs. But not a single bit of air moved. The look on Miss Talbot’s face said it all; I was going to die. I was going to die right here with all my classmates looking on.

Then her expression changed.

“You’ve knocked the wind out of yourself,” she said. “Just relax. It will come back. You’ll be able to breathe in a minute.”

After telling my classmates to go to the locker room, she turned back to me.

She was right. My breath was slowly coming back.Several minutes later, I was able to stand up. I bent over, hands on my knees and breathed in sweet, fresh air. I was staring down at the grass.

It was then that I realized what I’d done.

I had not only cleared the high jump pole, I had propelled myself so spectacularly that I missed the blue safety mat altogether, and landed a few feet away from it. She walked me back to the gym. She wanted to call my parents, but I was fine. Later she showed up in my English class to see if I was OK. I assured her I was. Next, she showed up in my math class.

This time I was honest; my ribs hurt. An x-ray later that day revealed cracked ribs – three of them.

Since my former classmates reminded me of that fateful day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Slowly, I realized that my barely-teen self had something to say.

5 Lessons I learned from an epic failure:


2. Sometimes you have to just do it – without thinking too hard

3. Over-analyzing things does not ensure safety

4. The outcome might not be what you expected – but you still just may accomplish something fabulous

5. Nobody ever brags about playing it safe

So, as you think about what you want to accomplish in 2015, aim high. Even if you don’t reach your goal in the way you intended – you’ll still be a better person (ie: writer, photographer, artist, shoe salesman) for it!

Here’s a little bit of a twist on the New Year’s theme of making goals; I was listening to a podcast on The Accidental Creative. In the podcast, Todd Henry, lists 7 questions to ask yourself in the new year. Those questions include;

• How will I stretch myself today, and step out of my comfort zone?

• Where am I doing something that doesn’t seem like me?

• What little risk will I take today/this week/this month to confront my fear?

Listen to Todd Henry’s podcast on The Accidental Creative to learn more:

It’s a podcast I highly recommend for that push of inspiration toward achieving your goals.

So, what about you? Do you make goals in the new year? How will you stretch yourself this year?

Karen Fisher-Alaniz
Hitting the Reset Button at Midlife

Give us your thoughts!