I have the feeling that when I was born, I brought with me a ton of internal baggage from previous lives. Who knows how I lived them, but for whatever reason, I’m settled on the realization that some of it might have been predetermined. For instance, it may have been my otherworldly mission to sort myself out (a multitude of past lives, details, complexities, loves and all things lost) in this life, as fast as possible. Whether I knew it or not, I was driven, rather curiously, to understand all things nonsensical. I was on a never-ending pursuit to interpret this new world at the same time I was trying to get my internal metadata system operating efficiently. You know, there are a lot of kinks to work out from previous lives. It’s been chock-full of awkward and insecurity, play and intellect, courage and vulnerability, friends and family and foes, signs and signals and noise. It’s taken 26 years, and has often felt a little something like this:
Even the happiest, most joyful moments have left me heavy with struggled comprehension. I think this is how my soft spot for communicating developed. The truth is, I haven’t been great at it and words have failed me more times than they’ve connected me to another. The consequences of this can be significant, if not life-changing for either party. But I keep trying. And one of the best ways I’ve been successful is through play, movement and sports.
There’s a great new ad out that raises the social question of how girls play sports. And if I’m being honest, I never thought about how a girl should or should not play a sport. If anything, I would have said that I played like a boy, not realizing I was betraying my own gender by not identifying with it. Growing up, I just didn’t like the way girls played sports, and again not recognizing that I was already changing the game. I didn’t even like the way young women played Division 1 athletics. Competition, the way I had learned with the boys, suddenly became something entirely alien to me. And I became further distanced from being female. I had reduced myself to a basketball player, asexual.
What I didn’t realize until very recently, was that I had been betraying my womanhood for more than a decade while I played this sport. And when I stopped playing, the emptiness of not knowing how to be was pretty paralyzing. How could I have possibly defined what it meant to be a woman if I couldn’t even fathom what it meant to play like a girl? I watched the video below, and realized that maybe I had surrendered far too much of myself for a really long time.
When I watch the little girls in this video, I think of my future daughters. I think of how I will teach them to play sports, to communicate, to love, to be fiercely independent and beautifully compassionate. I will teach them that winning at all costs is not competition, but that playing the game with integrity is far more rewarding. That Type A does not stand for Alpha, but that Type B’s (in case anyone else missed the memo) can be leaders in their own regard, with their own style and in their own unique fashion. I will tell them, “No, you do not need those 20 extra pounds of muscle on your frame” and instead encourage agility and natural fitness. And if there is one thing that I will change so that my future daughter’s lives could be better, I would give special attention to what it means to be a girl and a woman. Not an athlete, not a really smart kid, not a writer, musician, artist, whatever. But a woman. I would make this is a priority, above all else. I would make a concentrated effort to strip the extremities of work, school, and sports, to remind myself as a future mother, wife and parent of my daughters (so I be so blessed), that we are women. Phenomenally. It is the greatest gift my mother has given me, only now am I finally listening and seeing myself for the first time, the way she has always seen me.
I would carry on this legacy and use school and sports as catalysts to demonstrate our evolving definition of womanhood. That sports can empower you to test your physical strengths, to learn the power of your body and understand its connection with the mind. The authentic voice that says, “Don’t quit. You got this.” And the ears that listen to your body when it says, “I’m injured, I need to rest now. I’ll be better later.” Harnessing the wild and free and defiant spirit that makes you run, and the instigator that accelerates upon impact, absorbs the contact and rolls with the punches. And always, an offered hand for those who have fallen, especially if you put them on their back in the first place. Messages sent and received. By the way, all things my father and brother have taught me, but were always more mindful to celebrate who I was off the field rather than what I accomplished on it. The trouble was I could never quite figure that part out, I was just grateful for the space.
These things are incredibly important, and in a lot of ways, the lessons we learn from these experiences are truly the hard work that goes into hardwiring the meta. I’ve engineered this mostly through my writing, architecting thoughts in readable language; practicing gratitude when things didn’t go my way, knowing that someday it will all mean something. I wrote last year that I was purposefully fracturing my life between Baltimore and Philadelphia, only to discover that I had broken myself completely. Shattered myself in a million pieces and learning that sometimes this is way better than bending and refusing to break. And now Someday has arrived and I’m assigning meaning to it with an exclamation point.
I’m calling it the Curious Life of Kristen Dalton: the older I physically age, the younger my soul becomes. Now, I get to enjoy the tangible output–being a woman– however electrifying, adventurous and caregiving I decide to be. I can remove my eyes from my mind and place them on my heart. Because some things about being a woman can only be learned from a man. And I’m all about the complements. I’m a late beauty, blooming from the inside out–arriving in a lightning strike.