Vulnerability denotes a certain susceptibility to attack, harm, danger that might not apply to everyone. Certain demographics are more vulnerable to various predatory types than others. The term at-risk youth comes to mind. Deer in headlights. Babes in the woods. Small creatures that need protecting.
Monty Python warped me. The scene in monty python and the holy grail which involved the rabbit of caerbannog turned the idea of weakness on it’s very long and fuzzy ear when a small me considered the possibility that something or someone could appear to be quite vulnerable, but in fact be fierce enough to take out a banner (yes that is the collective noun for a group) of knights.
I spent years being tough. I spent a really long time not crying. I never wanted anyone to think that though small, though female, though young, I was not a force to be reckoned with. I read much and listened often (though not as often as I likely should have, but I think that’s somewhat common with a lot of youth..and some adults) and absorbed knowledge, assured that I was arming myself against a world that would eat me alive if I showed even a bit of weakness. I didn’t have much patience for those who didn’t protect themselves from the monsters at the door, I didn’t understand why so many were constantly in need of the knight to save them. I didn’t want to need anyone. I was determined to be able to save myself, if it ever came to that.
But vulnerability isn’t always about being preyed upon. Sometimes it’s about being open enough that the good stuff can find it’s way in.
Of course there are things I can do to protect myself against being hurt or taken advantage of, but I think for a long time I confused what those things might be with walls. Building walls doesn’t help keep one safe as much as it helps keep one isolated. Being isolated doesn’t help one grow, unless you’re a very specific microorganism. Which I am not, being that there is pretty much nothing unicellular about me.
I write things and I am scared to publish them. No. I am scared to submit them for publication because I am fearful that they will be rejected. There is a beautiful example of a wall I’ve built to protect myself from the pain of rejection, which also determines a certain inhibition of growth. How will I grow as a writer if I don’t submit my work to criticism or perspectives other than my own?
It’s the same with everything. I tend to live in the realm of don’t be it, dream it, going against everything Dr Frank N. Furter tried to teach me during all those midnight showings of the rocky horror picture show.
I dream big and I dream silly and I dream often, and for the most part, I’m content to dream. I know that sometimes it comes from a place of fear. A place where I am afraid to step outside of my comfort zone (which I acknowledge potentially looks much more uncomfortable than not, when compared to the comfort zones of others, especially the ones where shoes are an everyday occurrence) and take a chance on fucking it all up, for the sake of embracing change and growing in a medium that demands whatever the opposite of isolation is. Interaction.
Recently, I applied for, was accepted to, school. For heavy duty mechanics. Not necessarily because I’ve always dreamed of being a heavy duty mechanic. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Mechanics is something I always kind of admired, but was never really driven towards. I bought a van with the intention that I would eventually learn how to fix it. The first time I opened the hood, it was as though a rallying call sounded across the yard. The guys who lived on the property flocked towards it as though I had just cracked the seal on the ark of the covenant and before long, I was edged out while they perused and pored over the guts of my road warrior ford named Sonja, because she was red.
I allowed it. Little miss I can do it, I don’t need the help had to back down because it was always one or the other. This was a thing I didn’t know how to do and because of my face first fists up attitude, I didn’t know how to say, “can you show me?” because asking would mean admitting there was something I didn’t know. Better to walk away muttering about the sexism rampant in the world. Yeah.
There will always be something I don’t know. That someone else does. That they are probably overjoyed to tell me about because sharing knowledge is one of the most beautiful things we can share.
Pretty much exactly 10 years after the early days of my van dwelling existence, I found myself in Vancouver, working for my uncle. He is a mechanic, on boats. He needed a detailer type to help him get through the spring until he found someone who was more suited to the position of detailer/cleaner/painter/electrician/light duty mechanic/do all the things. Turns out that was me. Not only was I good at it, I loved it! The mystery, the problem solving, the troubleshooting, the goddamn LOGIC of mechanics and electrical delighted me to no end. After a time, the excess of the clientele started to get to me. Which is sad because if you earn money, what you spend it on is really none of my business. Especially since at least some of what you’re spending it on is paying my rent and keeping food in my fridge. It feels hypocritical to have that attitude, but there it is. I was working on super yachts for very wealthy people and having a hard time with how much they spent on stuff. Perhaps that sounds like a silly reason to move on, especially since I absolutely loved working for my uncle and I adored the work most of the time. But there it is. I have never tried to convince anyone that I am not a very silly person. It’s a point of pride.
So I moved away from the mechanics again, still doing light duty work on my own truck now and then, leaving the bigger jobs for actual mechanics, always with a small burr of frustration that I couldn’t do it myself. And then, while showing a friend and her young son how to do an oil change on their farm tractor, she said, “Why don’t you go back to school for mechanics? You’re good at it. You love it. I don’t know why you’re not doing that.”
This was pretty much 10 years after I had been working for my uncle on boats. I was between jobs at the time, had been most recently working in a cafe/general store and grocery store, would later end up in a bakery/cafe and while I’m good with people when I have to be, I’d rather be good with people because I want to be. Customer service jobs are not necessarily my forte. I said to another friend, “I’m too old to go to school. I’m nearly 40.” She said, “Do you want to be still just getting by when you’re 50?”
Because that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m working jobs that pay the rent, that feed me and the dog, but not much else. It’s time to try something different.
I have to be completely honest. Being a mechanic isn’t necessarily my dream.
But having healthy teeth and spending 3 months of every year surfing without a wetsuit somewhere amazing is. Sure, I like the idea that I’ll have these badass skills that will likely be helpful in a variety of scenarios, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m finally starting to grasp that life is both short and long and if I don’t get it done now, while I’m still able and healthy and strong, there won’t be time later.
So nearly 20 years to the day I was afraid to say, “Can you show me how to fix this?” for fear of making myself vulnerable to the possibility of someone making fun of me for not knowing, I’ve finally learned to not be afraid of asking. Because I don’t know.
But I’ll learn.