by Kristen

I tapped my car keys against my leg in time with the ice cream truck’s music. I’d never noticed that “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” have the exact same beat . . . or that my feet hit the ground on the beat of the ambient music.

It’s been eighteen years since I was in marching band: I still step with my left foot first; I still have an exaggerated heel-to-toe gait; I still fall into step with people walking near me.

Muscle memory? Maybe. Or maybe some experiences become so ingrained, I can’t not do them.

I can’t not eat my vegetables first.

I can’t not double-check the door is locked.

I can’t not root for one team over another in a game.

Some things go beyond habit and imprint on my wiring. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. But what happens when it’s not an inconsequential quirk?

I can’t not compare myself to others.

I can’t not set impossible self-standards.

I can’t not over-think situations and conversations.

Subconsciously walking in step to the ice cream truck’s jingle has no great impact, but labeling—and believing—myself a failure for missing unrealistic expectations has profound consequences. And still I do it.

I do it because it’s easier to accept my flaws as permanent than pay attention to them and do the hard work of refuting lies with truth. I do it because while I don’t enjoy my unattractive character traits, it’s a lot less work to call them hard-wired than it is to call them out.

Maybe today is the day to take another listen to the rhythms I move to and step off in a new direction . . . right foot first.


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