I’ve been joking a lot lately with old friends and acquaintances that the old “Nika,” the girl they knew who was quiet, sweet and naïve is dead; that she was gobbled up a long time ago, transformed by life experiences into a new woman; one that is vastly different from the one of their memories. However, I recently realized the metamorphosis I’d been kidding about has truly happened. I used to be fearless or at the very least less fearful than I am these days.
So, what caused this epiphany you might ask? Two days ago, I lost the stop guard for belly button piercing. A simple, small thing that jolted me into noticing that for the first time in nearly ten years I was without my midsection marker. Looking at the empty hole where my silver bar used to be, I wondered if I, the woman I am now, have the stones to wander through Greenwich Village, walk into a random shop and allow a stranger with a bone through his nose, disks in his ears and tattoos all over his body, run an upholstery needle through my stomach so I could get a hole to adorn with jewelry. Disappointed, I came to the conclusion that the answer is probably not.
Of course, the train had left the station and I couldn’t stop myself from pondering if I could do other things I had the courage to in my youth like could I could quit my job and move to another city without a job just because I needed a change; if I could hop in the car, drive to a tattoo place in another state, drop my pants in front of room full of people and get a piece of artwork carved into my hip; If I’d hold another alligator, ride a motorcycle, climb a rock wall, go white water rafting, or learn a new sport like skiing then hit the intermediate trail at Killington on my second try. More importantly, I thought about whether I would sit down and write my first book, Dark Recesses, without a clue how and continue to plug away at it for years without any prospect of a publisher. I’ve also seen and helped my friends survive much of the same.
In addition to the things that have drained me, I’ve gained new responsibilities too. I’ve become an aunt and a godmother, bought a house, a car, maintained a long term relationship, helped my brother through school, and moved up in my career. I’ve written two other books, Eyewitness and I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married, and, I’ve become a sounding board for my friends and family. I could hear her fight back tears trying not to think about losing her only surviving parent, yearning for a time not too long ago when we were young and had never known such loss.
As I heard her voice crackle, I wished there was some way to go back to take away her pain and mine. Unfortunately, I knew there wasn’t. If only, I thought, we could go back to being those fearless girls who were going to change our lives and not let life change us. But, we can’t. We’ve already seen how much can be lost and how much can be gained in a lifetime; how fortune can turn on a dime, turning joy to grief, love to loneliness, friendship to bitter rivalry, nurturing to care giving, health to chronic illness, prosperity to poverty and fearlessness into fear.
A wall of depression came over me until one thought hit me. Neither she nor I need to go back to overcome our fear of the future. We need to go forward; to continue on this difficult journey together, as friends. You see, we weren’t scared to do any thing back in our youth because we, she and I, could always lean on each other. We still can so there is no reason to be afraid. Love is the gift we’ve all been given to get over our fears and live fearless lives.