A girl and her little scooter
A few days ago, while jogging in the park beneath my flat, I saw something interesting.
As I started jogging, I noticed a pair of kids - a boy and a girl - riding their scooters around the park gleefully.
Upon passing them by on my third round, they were perched at the top of a slope, the girl with one leg on her scooter. Her back was facing me and she was talking to the boy behind her. I didn't catch what she said but the boy replied loudly, "Just go!" The girl answered: "Really?", before facing the front. A look of concern spread across her face. But this was not long before she kicked off the scooter and went whizzing down the slope, all the while screaming loudly.
At my fourth round of jogging, I met her again. This time, she was scooting towards the same slope, but unlike before, she glided down without any hesitation and screaming. It was as if this was something she did regularly. Nothing new.
Even as the entire episode was brief, it was etched firmly in my mind. The split second the girl went from fear and doubt to actually taking action was deeply memorable for me. Veritably, it was a nondescript slope, and by adult standards, a gentle one. Yet, this must have felt daunting for a young girl like her. I wondered how she brought herself to ride down the slope and how she overcame her fear. The interesting part for me was: it took no longer than a second for her to go from being worried and questioning "Really?" (i.e. "Should I really do this?") to actually attempting it. There was not much delay, no shifting of foot from one to next, no nervous and anxious glances to the left and right. She just took action. And with this act of bravery, she instantly overcame her fear. It was no longer frightening to her on the second try.
I wondered as I jog: "How did she bring herself do it?" "What would be different if it was an adult doing the same thing, but on top of a steeper and scarier-looking slope?" I recall my own moments of doubt, be it foregoing a roller coaster ride because I was too scared, or (and this can be potentially offensive) opting out of a meet-up with friends because I was afraid that it may be awkward. Notwithstanding, there are countless of examples out there where we don't try because we fear. I'm sure all of us have had such moments. Yet, the value in "not thinking" and "not worrying too much" actually stands out even more in such a context. Is "not thinking" necessarily bad? Commonly labelled as "impulse" and "reckless", can we afford to let go and "not think"? Then, what does control mean?
I may sound a little crazed extrapolating so much from such a brief incident (aka girl and scooter), but all these thoughts came rushing in. For me, I fear the loss of control. I've always struggled, and still am struggling, with the ability to let go of certain things. It just seems too hard. But maybe it's hard because we make it hard. Maybe the slope seems too steep because we magnify it in our minds. I recall a particular passage from Warren Berger's book A More Beautiful Question, where he talked about how in an age where we perceive children as less knowledgeable and hence educate them in certain ways, we fail to see how we can learn from them in so many ways. Kids fall down and pick themselves up again. They race each other on reaching the roof of the playground first, or run around making silly faces with no preoccupations. They be. They are. What you see is what you get.
Compare all these to the average adult: with tens of thousands of days lived under their belt, they have seen and experience a lot. But with the setbacks they encounter, the message of "I cannot" gets stronger. They retreat further back to "safety" with their own scooters.
Control is a big issue to most of us. Uncertainties daunt us. Control = stability. However, what if this "control" we strive to have (and maybe we have gotten it) brings us further from exploring the potentially wonderful unknown? To the little girl, she got a taste of that unknown. And it was pure joy, freedom and lightness, as she zipped down in her kid-sized scooter.