Friday, December 3, 2010

On being a perpetual klutz.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a remarkable klutz. I'm pretty sure I stumbled while exiting the womb, because since birth I've had trouble simply standing up straight. In my elementary school days it may have been comical, perhaps even endearing. I picture a miniature me with dainty feet and legs just a touch too long for my body stumbling over somebody's Jenga tower or falling butt-first into the bucket of Lincoln logs and I laugh. It's funny because the image is rather adorable. I see a little blonde girl tripping over her own Polly Pocket sneakers landing smartly on her rear, and she stares up at me with bulging blue eyes just slightly glistening with tears. She's pretty cute. And I can only hope those who knew me at the time thought the same. Looking back on all the times I tripped at recess, I pray that that was the case. If not, then its just unfortunate.

As I entered the years that would fall into my "middle school" era (although, technically, I never officially attended middle school), my clumsiness only worsened. My body grew in all sorts of strange directions, and I found myself standing almost five feet tall in fourth grade, being nearly 10 to 15 pounds overweight. To complicate matters, I sprouted a healthy pair of breasts that were the largest of all my classmates'. Not only did I look awkward, but I felt it. My body didn't remotely resemble anyone else's, so I was sure something was wrong with it. I felt uncomfortable as myself, and often would wear boys' clothes to hide my chest and thighs. I didn't know what else to do with them. Needless to say, feeling uneasy in one's body does very little one's gracefulness. I was that girl who always tripped in the hall, sending a wave books of books papers onto the floor and under my feet. Stairs continued to be a problem, so stepping off the bus was usually a bit of a to-do. All my most serious injuries occurred between the ages of 9 and 12. In those years I sprained my shoulder (fell off the monkey bars), fractured my foot (it was just one misplaced karate kick), and sprained my finger (kickball, enough said). Although I stopped maiming myself by high school, I was no less clumsy. The hallways between classes were like a minefield. I had to be consciously aware of the people surrounding me and also somehow manage to not trip over students sitting on the floor, keep my books in my hand, and sometimes even carry a conversation. It was a circus act seven times a day. 

At my house my family gets a kick out of my lack of coordination. I can hear my sister's exact tone as she says "Got yourself?" after I trip over the dining room chair or walk face-first into the kitchen door. Stubbed toes have become routine. It doesn't even need to be dark for me to misjudge the distance between my foot and the leg of the couch. I had a running joke with a coworker of mine that continually bumping into things signified a case of "The Micahs." Working at a pet store was like trying to work in a war zone for me. I had boxes of cat litter everywhere, racks of toys with lethal metal pegs sticking out, and shelf corners that left me with unsightly bruises on every inch of my legs. I think I came home more beat up from just walking around the store than from any animal ever fell into my care.

Daily functions can even be a bit of an ordeal. Walking up stairs has always proved challenging for me. Many times while exiting the subway, I trip on the step and face-plant into someone's rear end. I take extra time while leaving my seat to go to the bathroom during class. I slide out carefully and deliberately, all the while bracing myself on both my desk and chair. Too many times I've stumbled over my seat in my haste to empty my bladder. The feeling of all those judgmental eyes on me while I regain my balance is often enough to make me wish I had just decided to hold it in. 

My mom would always tell me "Don't worry, you'll grow out of it" while I was still enduring the horrors of puberty. Well, here I am at 19 years old and it still feels like my body has yet to settle into its final shape. I continually miscalculate the area I take up or the distance between my arm and that sharp corner. My boyfriend usually suffers the most from my inability to control my body, perhaps even more than I do. He's taken many a knee to the ribs or elbow to the face, and I am so grateful that he hasn't started to hate me for it yet. I secretly fear one day he will.

I am so far from ever "growing out of" my clumsiness. I've been plagued by it for so long that at this point I've begun to assume I'll be like this forever, stuck perpetually in the awkward body of a pubescent young woman with a center of gravity that seems to change on a daily basis. To tell the truth, that kind of terrifies me. Will I always have these bruises on my shins? These scrapes on my knees? Will my loved ones be in constant danger of a flailing arm or poorly timed toss of my hair? The way things look from here I'm tempted to believe that answer is "yes."

God, if you exist, please prove me wrong.

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