Carolyn J. Rose
Sometimes I feel like a duck in a shooting gallery.
Except, unlike those metal waterfowl, I have the ability to dodge bullets coming at me.
And, in my case, the bullets are figurative. They take the form of accidents, incidents, opportunities, rejections, windfalls, entanglements, penalties, illnesses, and all the other variables of life.
Sometimes, when “bad” bullets flew, I’ve been quick enough to escape unscathed. Sometimes I received only a scratch or a minor wound. But sometimes I took a more serious hit—a hit to my health, my finances, my pride, or my heart.
I dodged some serious bullets before I was even born. I was conceived in a democracy to parents who valued education, hard work, humor, and an inventive spirit. As a toddler I was struck by the polio bullet, but was fortunate enough to shake off the virus and suffer only the fever. After that, the comparatively smaller-caliber bullets of mumps, measles, and chickenpox seemed like marshmallows.
As I grew to my teen years and the world entered the 60s, new projectiles came at me—or maybe it’s more realistic to say there were times I threw myself at them. I rushed toward stupid choices, listened to bad advice, and allowed my emotions to rule. I tried cigarettes and alcohol, puffed marijuana, had sex, and questioned authority. Mostly I hid all that from my parents. Or I lied about it and convinced myself they believed me. At the same time, I longed to be “grown up” and “finally on my own” because everybody knew “I could take care of myself just fine.”
And then I was on my own.
And I discovered how large and fast and powerful some of the bullets coming at me were. I discovered how badly they could damage my mind, my body, and my future.
There were toxic friends who played on my insecurities or steered me down roads less traveled—less traveled for darn good reasons. Some of those friends were obviously needy and greedy. Some were more subtle. They all sucked time, money, and energy. Some sucked at my soul.
There were job choices—decisions made because I wanted new experiences or because I wanted to escape a boss in possession of the title but not the skills.
There were poor health and wellness choices—too much of what tasted good or numbed the pain, too many late nights, too little exercise.
There were the boys and men I convinced myself I wanted to be with. All were charming or fascinating or addictive in their own ways. Many also—whether they would admit it or not—wanted me to live my life according to their rules. And sometimes I did. For a while.
Now, scarred and bullet-riddled, I’m still upright, still crossing the landscape of the shooting gallery called life. I’m the person I am now because of the bullets I dodged. I’m also the person I am now because of the bullets that struck. The bullets I didn’t dodge because I couldn’t. Or because I wouldn’t.