When I was about six years old, my mom sent me to summer day camp. A big yellow school bus came up to the curb, and took me to this unknown place in the middle of the woods, where fun was promised. Being an only child in a neighborhood with very few children for me to interact with, my mother thought she was doing me a favor by sending me to camp, so I could socialize with other kids.
From the very first day of camp, I held back tears throughout the day. I thought my mom was sending me away from the comfort of my home and family for being an annoying little kid. Why was I being banished to this strange land (about twenty miles from my house) to be with these people who didn’t know that I liked bologna and cheese sandwiches and that I couldn’t sleep without my blanket? I wasn’t sure, but like any good anxious child would do, i fought the newness of the whole experience.
There was a giant pool at the camp and on one of the first days, we had a swim test where we swam across the pool. I had never been swimming without my mom or one of my grandparents nearby. I thought it to be a travesty to think that complete strangers were going to ensure that I didn’t drown. I jumped into the pool reluctantly and began swimming as instructed. I also began sobbing and screaming, “I want my mommy.” I somehow ended up with a group of kids who were stronger, more advanced swimmers. Imagine what I could have done had I not been screaming! That fearful little kid has lived inside of me ever since.
I recently got engaged. That’s a much bigger pool to be thrown into than any I’ve ever been in before. I have been living away from home, on my own now for several years. I make my own decisions and do the best that I can. I was of course elated to get engaged. The thought of getting married and basically taking on an entirely new identity, however, gave me the sudden feeling that I was perhaps giving up a part of who I am in exchange for a new life with this not so strange man. I began to panic, just like I did that day in the pool when I was six years old. I began getting homesick, and literally saying, “I want my mom.”
I have a great guy, and I now have the right as an adult to only “swim” if I want to, yet I’m still frightened of any of the new things that come my way. I think back to that day, when I was six, and knew absolutely nothing about the world. I was screaming bloody murder, and completely lost control, yet I kept swimming as hard as I could. There was a victory of sorts in getting to the other side of that pool. I swam on my own and what was new became another routine. This “breaking in” process seems to get much harder as I get older. Sometimes I think I just long for the familiar in life, even if it’s not what I want, because it seems so much easier than learning how to deal with new things.
The problem with being an adult is that I often end up like the screaming child, flailing her arms in a pool of self-doubt. I’m an adult, so I’m not supposed to be scared. I’m not supposed to need my mom after a certain point. I forgot that my inner child is still in there, sometimes, screaming. I forgot that new things can scare the crap out of me, but if I accept the fear, and even ask for a little help, I might actually adjust pretty well.
I promise I won’t be a runaway bride. I will be a calmly floating bride. As I’m in the midst of the newest, most exciting part of my life, I realize that I still can call my mom and she’ll answer her phone and give me some love and advice, even though I’m far too big to be coddled. My husband- to- be has replaced my security blanket that was long ago thrown away. The bottom line is probably to stay away from pools and men, but maybe I will give this marriage thing a try first.