I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Christmas. I had a fantastic one. It was an Indian Christmas this year meaning that my dad’s brother and sister stayed with us for several days. My dad is from India, for those of you who didn’t know. My uncle has a wife and two girls aged 10 and 4. The four-year-old can be best described as the Energizer Bunny who is constantly talking, singing, or participating in some kind of physical activity. It’s not annoying, but quite entertaining actually. My aunt and her son drove across the country to get here and will be staying with us for a little while longer.
It was great having kids in the house over the holidays. I repeatedly try every year to find a spirit of Christmas within me that I once had as a child, but I always fail. I’ve come to accept that it may not be possible to relive that feeling of excitement and joy as Christmas approaches. The pure magic of the season I believe is something that only a child has the ability to harness. So although I’m not able to completely relive my youth, being able to observe the spirit of Christmas through my cousins and feed off of their energy was also an experience worth cherishing.
You may have noticed in my previous entry that I seemed a bit anxious about something. Well last tour starts last Monday the 19th when I agreed to speak with some kindergartners about life in a chair along with another wheelchair user. It took me a while to fully agree to participate in the demonstration because so far in my life I have not had a ton of experience in working with kids. I like kids but in the past I’ve found myself intimidated by them and feeling stupid when I try and bring myself to their level as far as speaking tone and word usage. I knew I wanted to help out and the only reason why I was considering not doing it was a fear of failure or embarrassment, so I agreed.
When my dad and I arrived at the school, Todd, the guy who organized the event, met us out front. One of the first things he told me was that the other guy who I was collaborating with in this effort had to cancel at the last-minute so I would be the only person in a chair. I thought he was kidding at first but I soon realized that he wasn’t and I felt the weight on my shoulders grow a bit heavier. Despite the increased heaviness of the situation however, I was surprisingly confident at the moment and was worried little.
The instant we entered the school doors I began to get flashbacks of elementary school. I could not see any specific memories but I could suddenly feel how I felt at the age of five. I couldn’t describe how I felt because children at the age 5 don’t seem to have a specific type of feeling during this stage of their lives. They are simply one with their spirit, riding along the waves of ups and downs but for the most part centered within contentment.
Several kindergarten classes passed me in the hallway, almost each one gazing in wonderment and curiosity at myself and my nifty chair. We entered the first classroom we were to visit and awaited the arrival of the young ones from lunch break. I was a bit nervous but the casual conversation between myself, Todd, and a therapist who was also with us kept me pretty comfortable.
The instant the class came into the room I felt almost completely at ease. They rambunctiously sat in their seats and I began conversing with two boys who seemed to be the troublemakers of the class. Another class came in shortly after and all the kids sat on the floor in front of us, for the moment silent in their initial stage of wonderment. Todd began by saying a few words about people in chairs and asked the kids if they knew anybody who used a wheelchair. A lot of kids did but it was usually their grandparents. The spotlight was then turned to me and I began my portion of the presentation which grew much easier in the second and third classes. I briefly explained why I am the way I am and then began the highlight show. I reclined my backrest, then tilted the entire chair backwards. Oohs and ahs filled the room. I then initiated the seat elevator which raises me up to a little over 5 feet tall. This was obviously the coolest thing that these kids had ever seen in their entire lives. I soon found I had no reason to be nervous at all, my chair was doing all the talking for me.
Next we opened the floor for questions which I knew would be interesting but I had no idea what to expect. The questions weren’t nearly as outrageous as I thought they would be and consisted mostly of how do you do this and how do you do that. How do you eat? How did you get here? How do you put on your shirt? How do you put on your shoes? There were many more, but I honestly can’t really remember. They were definitely not shy about it. Questions were coming from all directions and it was a bit hard to keep order. Things got much worse when we let them drive a couple of kid power chairs Todd had brought along. During this time I had a group of about four or five kids crowded around me where I received some of the more outrageous questions. One conversation with two little girls went something like this:
How do you take your shirt off?
My parents help me.
They take off your pants?
They take off your underwear?
They see your private parts?
Then an eruption of giggling came forth. They thought it was absolutely hilarious. One of the girls then exclaimed that she doesn’t like her parents seeing her private parts. I didn’t know five-year-olds cared about that sort of thing.
The other two presentations went about the same way but it was in the second classroom where the anxiousness of my last entry stemmed from. I’m sure you all can guess what awaited me in that second classroom. That’s right, it was a woman. The kids were already seated on the floor awaiting my arrival as I rolled in. My eyes almost immediately met the eyes of a young, tall, brunette kindergarten teacher and I sensed the spark of mutual attraction between us. As I spoke in front of the classroom our eyes continually met for brief moments, her gaze seemingly expressing something more than just interest in what I was saying. As the kids were taking turns driving the chairs I made some sort of comment to her and she enthusiastically came and sat down close to me so that she could hear me better. This was my chance to begin some lighthearted conversation but I was not doing a very good job. We then both overheard two girls talking about boyfriends, one girl expressing that she had a boyfriend in the class.
“How do you know he’s your boyfriend?” the teacher asked.
“Because I know him”, the girl responded.
The teacher then turned to me and said, “I wish it was that easy to get boyfriends now.”
“Here’s my chance”, I thought. Here’s my opening. Time to jump in with a witty line and reel this one in for the catch, but I had nothing. As I left classroom I smiled at her and she responded with a wink and a smile. After the third presentation was finished she waved at me from down the hallway as she led the kids to the parking lot. “Another blown opportunity”, I thought.
After the leaving the school I felt very energized from the experience but I found myself continually thinking about this teacher who I thought was obviously showing interest. Of course now that the situation was over I was thinking of a million things I should have said. It always happens like that.
My cousin and his new wife arrived at our home a few hours later, stopping in on their way down to Florida. I was telling him about the situation and he convinced me that I should try and get in touch with her. Almost immediately after I made this conscious decision to pursue this teacher, anxiety and nervousness kicked into high gear. I didn’t even know this woman’s name and I was going to track her down and ask her out? I wouldn’t even had done something like this before my injury, but for some reason I felt like it was something I had to do.
Getting her e-mail address was much easier than I expected. I got on the school’s web site where they had pictures and bios of all the teachers. After much dwelling over and running of circumstances through my head I wrote her an e-mail thanking her for letting us enter her classroom and give our presentation. I then asked her for advice on how it might be improved and what I can do to reach the kids better. I was basically trying to establish some sort of communication with who was at the time a complete stranger. As soon as I clicked send and the e-mail was in route to its destination the butterflies in my stomach made a break for it and my anxiety was gone.
Later on that day she wrote me back a short, thoughtful e-mail but to my dismay gave no definite signs of interest in me. Once again the butterflies came back because now I had to decide what to do from there. I knew the most obvious thing was to simply ask her out but the option completely terrified me. I turned to the advice of my wheelchair friends out there in the Internet world and of course they all told me to go for it. I decided to sleep on it and woke up the next day with a whole new series of knots in my stomach. I think I sat in front of my computer screen all morning brooding over what I knew I had to do. I called my sister for a pep talk and it actually did me a lot of good. In the end she told me to just do it, so I hung up the phone and sent an e-mail I had actually already written an hour before, telling her I was thought she seemed like a friendly and nice person so I was wondering if she would like to go out for lunch or something. I told her she could call me if she wanted to and gave her my phone number. Immediately the knots were gone and relief overcame me for the time being.
That night knots began forming once again but weren’t nearly as bad. Unlike most would think, I wasn’t really frightened of rejection, I was actually more frightened that she would say yes, because if she said yes then I would have to go out on a date and I didn’t even want to imagine what the anxiety of preparing for that would be like.
I got no response for a couple of days except a phone call from a restricted number but there’s no telling who that could have been. I still was not too anxious about the situation but did wish I could go ahead and get some sort of resolution so I could enjoy the Christmas holiday with my family.
I finally got my resolution shortly after my uncle and his family arrived. The e-mail she wrote me came with great relief but wasn’t at all what I expected. According to her words she had a boyfriend and was actually up north with him at the time. I found myself briefly disappointed by the news of her status. Even though I was relieved not to have to worry about it anymore I would have much rather felt the anxiety of a future date than the emptiness of no date at all. It didn’t really make sense to me that she would have a boyfriend from the signals I thought I was picking up on. The thought popped into my head that she could be lying but I don’t think that was the case. Like so many girls out there she was probably just flirtatious in nature and didn’t know what she was doing.
Simply asking this random female out was actually a big step for me. The anxiety of trying to enter the dating world is by no means fun but I think it’s well worth it. The more I put myself out there and overcome my fears, I’m hoping the more these fears will diminish. Who knows maybe next time I feel like asking a girl out I might just come right out and say it without hesitation or fear. When you think about it, what do I have to lose?
“The follies which a man regrets the most in his life are those which he didn’t commit when he had the opportunity."