In each stage of our life, there are many moments that can define us.
High school graduations with yellow tassels and blue gowns, mortar board caps thrown effortlessly in the air because we did it, we made it, we graduated. Parties with chocolate cake and purple frosting that make your Great Uncle Steve’s teeth appear as he eats and grins, “Congratulations, graduate!”
The first days of college as you wear your ID around a green and white lanyard and walk to BIO 101, feeling homesick but never admitting it because you want —need—to do this on your own. Even if the dorm food sucks. And you let yourself get duped by college boys with diamond earrings that are square and one-liners that are smooth, using Disney movie references and lines from "The Notebook" to morph your mind into thinking you're special. Riggghhht.
Your best friend’s wedding as you nervously say your Maid of Honor speech wearing a satin orange gown that you will not, cannot, refuse to “shorten and wear again.” Your own wedding as you walk down the aisle wearing a white wedding gown, feeling beautiful and simple and elegant and happy.
And me? One of my defining moments?
I was four-years-old wearing an itchy gingerbread man costume made out of brown felt and white sequins.
I was at the end of my second year taking tap dance lessons at the local “School of Dance” (not just a dance studio, but a “School of Dance.” In italics.). My parents were escorting me to the required dance rehearsal, a warm-up for next night’s recital, the real deal, my tap dance debut. I would be doing a cutesy number where myself and 15 other little girls were dressed as mini-gingerbread men in tan tights and red lipstick. Because nothing says sugar-n-spice sweet like little girls dressed as cookies.
I remember tap-shuffle-ball-changing as I itched my gingerbread head on stage in front of the dancer’s parents. I remember the other girls tapping and twisting in front of me once we were done, pushing me to the back of the line lead by the instructor urging us to follow her like a gaggle of baby geese.
And I remember me, the feisty four-year-old that I was, being mad I was at the back of that line. I remember looking at the girls in front of me and then back out at stage behind me. I remember turning around and without a word, walking away from the line of tappers and back onto the stage by myself.
The Lone Gingerbread Girl, on a mission: I was going to hop off stage and find my mom myself.
Forget those other girls. Or, in grown-up terms that I can say more than twenty years later: Screw this.
I stepped onto the brown wooden floor of the stage and was blinded by the stage lights, shining bright, blinking red, green and yellow like a stoplight, only these lights weren't directing me when or where to go. These lights were waiting for me to go. These lights were saying, "Your move, cookie."
I remember thinking (not literally thinking these words; I mean, I was only four-years-old): "Wow. Those lights are bright. I cannot see where my mom is because of those lights. What do I do?"
I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know how I would find my mom once I got into the audience. But I knew I would.
I got off the stage thanks to a parent in the front row. Somehow I found my dad at the back of the auditorium wearing a surprised face and his trademark Ford Motor hat. And a few minutes later, my mother accompanied us, sobbing hysterically, which scared me. I was confused. Why was she crying? Wasn't this easier? I made my own solution. It was quicker. Here I was. I was right here. The Little Gingerbread Girl.
“Where were you?” she cried as she hugged me tight, the brown felt of the costume itching my face. “I went backstage and you weren’t there! Don’t ever do that again to Mommy!”
She spent the rest of the night instructing me how I must, must, MUST make sure to go back to the dressing room tomorrow night. Suffice to say, the next night, I was at the dressing room right where I was supposed to be.
Now at 25-years-old, I think back to that memory of little four-year-old Lindsay, all brown felt and fearlessness. I can’t help but feel as if I need to take a page out of her book.
Because nowadays, as a quote-unquote “adult,” I sometimes shrink behind others when I should let myself shine. When I get upset about something, I don’t always do things to change it. I get scared to stand out and be vulnerable in front of people.
And yet my four-year-old self wasn’t.
With her gingerbread costume and determination, she wasn’t scared to be herself. She went after what she wanted. She didn’t want to be at the back of the line; she didn’t settle with people shuffling her around, taking the spot before her. She made her own solutions and she did it without worrying what the people in the audience would think (though I am sure if I was blogging from my mom's point of view of this story, it wouldn't be the same perspective.)
Maybe we all should look back to who we were when we were little and remember our fearlessness. Remember the days where we didn’t care what others thought.
We need to turn around and not be afraid to get back on stage, alone in the spotlight. Being exactly who we were born to be, without limits or fears.
Or a gingerbread costume.