Thursday, September 25, 2008

I Am Invincible

Watch me tell my story live at SpeakeasyDC!

When I was 7 I used to make my brothers wrestle me for hours on the blue shag carpet in the living room to my favorite song – I Am Woman by Helen Ready.

“I am Strong – STRONG, I am Invincible, INVINCIBLE – I am WOMAN!”

I just loved that! I felt so strong, so “invincible”; “I could do anything!” I figured that I was destined for greatness. It ends up – I just had to convince my family, my teachers, all of Pennsylvania and I would find out later – Myself.

I am one 5 children – (5 in 5 years – Catholic -shrug) not the oldest, not the youngest, and GOD NO, not the middle kid. Not the only girl. Just in there somewhere.

I’m of average height, average weight – well kind of. I’m not really bad to look at but I don’t think anyone would tell you I should be modeling. Average. I’m good enough. From where I come from good enough is ---well --good enough.

“I am invincible- Invincible” - But you know, deep-deep inside - I knew good enough was NOT enough for me.

I have had lots of times in my life where I got close to greatness, but let something get in my way. Just a few years ago I finally took those steps to do something really courageous. That’s right. I did it. The thing we all say we are going to do someday! I stopped making excuses - I stopped worrying whether I was or ever would be gainfully employed again - I let go of my Advised 401K contribution plan. I quit my job, packed up everything for a year - got on a bicycle and started riding from the Pacific to the Atlantic. 4000 miles!

The first few weeks were the hardest. We were in the mountains – the real kind – and averaging 90 miles a day. I know what you want to ask me next – Hell yes my butt hurt. I had brush burns on both hinny cheeks, and yes I had to stop a few times a day and cry - but I road every mile.

After three weeks, the Cascades, the Rockies and lots of other mountain ranges my confidence grew. So when I peddled into Riverton, Wyoming I was looking for a place to get my hair dyed some crazy color that I never had the guts to do when it was age appropriate.

After asking around a bit I ended up at Styles School of Cosmetology. I hid my bike behind the open door and climbed the narrow stairs to the 2nd floor and was welcomed by 25 year old headshot posters advertising my options. There were two young women wearing plastic smocks and gossiping with each other through the mirror as they fiddled with their own hair. They looked up when I walked in. I could sense their excitement. “You mean you don’t care what we do?” “The wilder the better”, I said. They were used to the blue-hairs in town coming for a weekly set at a bargain. They rarely got a chance to do something modern.

Carol who ran the school came by to check on the girls and interrogate them of their plans for me. She was cool and did not even flinch when they explained my request. She advised them of the right chemical mix, the timing for application and then acted disinterested as I told the girls my story.

They were into it and had lots of questions as first step of the process took place. My hair needed to be dyed platinum white before any other color would hold. Carol pretended not to listen but was soon interjecting questions and comments. When it was time for the next process, Carol had taken over and began to tell me about her life and her ranch.

She had been at the school for years, worked her way up and now ran it but her real passion was her horses. When I told her about my descent of Powder River Pass at a crazy 50 miles per hour she told me about racing and jumping them. “I breed and run horses so I know what you mean about riding fast and dangerous. Been riding since I was little“ Carol said.

I was impressed and in awe of her. I had developed a fear of riding horses. I always feel like I am about to be thrown under the trotting hoofs, so I admired her courage.

Carol went on talking and I thought that she looked like she could break in a thoroughbred, even though her nails polished and manicured. To me, she approached my hair like shoveling shit on the ranch – just another job that needs to get done. But what did I know about that?

She started talking about how she too had thought about doing something like what I was doing except she wanted to go cross country on a motorcycle. She had always dreamed about it – stopping at the Sturgis motercycle rally along the way.

“I could do something like that. If we didn’t have the horses to care for and my job here.” She started talking out-loud about what she would have to do – arrangements that would have to be made. “Would Dan let you go?” one of the girls asked. “I do what I want, uh, - he would let me go, she said quickly. I nodded, smiled and gave her an understanding look.

The sun was coming up as I peddled out of Riverton the next morning. I felt like a rock star, uninhibited – powerful and free -my florescent orange hair sticking out through the slots in my helmet. As I came upon the last red light before hitting the open plane, I saw an arm extended in a full salute from a large silver pickup truck. A painted nail waving in my direction. We made eye contact and she smiled a sad smile. I gave a vigorous fist pump and a smile and began to peddle off to the next town - Carol gave one last wave and drove off to the Styles School of Cosmetology.

Oh yes, I am wise but it's wisdom born of pain. Yes, I've paid the price, but look how much I gained. If I have to, I can do anything! I am strong (strong!) I am invincible (invincible!) I am woman!

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