By: Gabriela Yareliz
Tonight, I was transported back to the early 2000s. (I watched How to Deal). I know I take you back there a lot, and I think it’s because there was a purity to how unique we were then. We had to be, in a world with no social media or influencers. We just sat on the bleachers and invented ourselves.
We were young and living outside of the boxes of professions and expectations.
At that time, I was taking Industrial Arts. In the class, I inherited some goggles that looked like aviator nerd glasses. My best friend and I decided these were so cool and decided to wear them outside of the class. We were wearing wood-working goggles outside of class. No one could convince us that this was ridiculous. (I was an obnoxiously overly confident member of the school newspaper staff— and thus felt I knew what the world was about). Our teacher let me keep the goggles.
There was no social media to document our choice in fashion. We didn’t care who liked them or who didn’t. It was a period of full ownership and so much freedom. I distinctly remember wearing the goggles while staring out of the passenger window in my dad’s Jeep while listening to Suga Suga (Baby Bash and Frankie J) playing on the radio. The dark grey Ohio sky looming above us. Me, feeling like a giant middle finger to the world.
Maybe, I feel that period so intensely because I had a lot of grief in me. We walk on the earth while it is spinning, and we feel nothing. Emotionally, when our worlds fall apart, our world stops. This sudden halt leaves us swaying in a search for balance that ultimately knocks us off our feet for a while. We must learn to crawl and then walk again, as our world then suddenly starts to move forward. Tickets to a carousel ride we never wanted.
In the midst of finding my footing in my baby steps— I had my tool kit. It was the time of Sarah Dessen books, Hilary Duff CDs, those thin black rubber bracelets, and the golden age of Teen Vogue and dELiA*s catalogs. Man, I miss it. This era ushered in my pixie cut and black nail polish phase.
I carried those goggles with me all the way to Florida, as we started over during my parent’s divorce. This wasn’t the first time I had moved (probably the 100th time); but it was probably the first time that I didn’t feel the need to reinvent myself. I really did like who I was then. So the goggles were there with me in my grey multi-pocket dEliA*S messenger bag that I had gotten for $5 at the Cincinnati mall.
Yesterday, I got a micro trim on my (very long) hair. My stylist for the day (not my usual hair dresser— yep, I cheated on my salon) did a great job on the cut and blow dry. She did it all in style; her petite figure towering in wedge heels and her bangles clinking with every wrist flick. She got an A+ on that. She talked some serious sh*t about my incoming grey hair; and I left feeling not so great about a part of myself I had decided to own. (She got an F for the bad vibes imparted). She was savage about it. The unease stayed with me a bit longer than expected.
All this to say, there are such important lessons we can take from our past. From our boldest and most sincere moments. From the moments when we didn’t just learn to walk again on moving ground, but from the moments where we got up and ran. We ran with all our might. We ran feeling our beating hearts in our calves as our feet hit the hot pavement. Blood rushing to our heads and the coppery taste in the back of our throats, with a little rib ache on the side. Running hard. Running fast. Running forward. Not caring who saw.
I know that when my world started spinning again (a long time ago), I got up and ran this path hard, fast and bold. And you better believe I was wearing those damn goggles. When I need a little bit of courage to brush off whatever comes my way; when I need a little reminder to be unapologetically me— they make an appearance in my mind. I dig through that grey dELiA*S bag and whip them out. You can’t see them, but I am wearing the goggles, still.
Because when I wear them, just as it was in my Industrial Arts class, nothing can hurt me. I look crazy, but I am so freakin’ happy.
I am safe.