There is something about a fire crackling.
The cold air seeps in from every angle, but a fire, raucous, boisterous, and stubborn, does what it pleases.
But what gives a fire fuel? It is not more than what we need?
Here I am, on the eve of my twenty-fifth birthday pondering if I have learned anything new within the past year, if I’ve curtailed any vices or if I’ve grown at all. The sweet Earl Grey tea tastes of rich lavender as it passes my lips on this particular chilly evening. And yet, my cheeks are blushing with warmth just watching the fire. The fire is hungry. It ravages the wood ferociously.
I know that hunger.
When I was a young child on a family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, I found myself spellbound with mouth ajar in a water-park. There stood a slide aptly named with the monikor: the kamikaze. It was a 50ft drop straight down and took the wind out of all dare devils. Was I even old enough to tie my own shoes?
Without a word, I dropped the hand from my adoring parents and disappeared to stand in line for the feat. The moment my feet stood on the top of the slide and my small hands gripped the metal bar overhead, I first felt my heart beat. My eyes gazed downward at the rushing water and the end that was blurry and far away. I took a deep breath. 1, 2, 3… and it was over. My turquoise swimsuit was lodged in a hilarious wedgie and my grin stretched wider than the Mississippi. I wanted to do it again! As my nubs of legs started the run back to line, my shoulder was caught by a hand and there stood my mother, bewildered and staring at me.
“Did you just do that?!” she demanded, exasperated.
And like the simple child I was, I told her the truth. “Yes. And I want to do it again.”
A decade later, I saw the same face on my mother as she flew to Orlando, Florida with my family to watch the Drum Corps International World Championship. There were there to watch their fifteen year-old spark-plug daughter: me.
Music has always been a part of my life. I could direct in 4/4 time before I knew the importance of it. Melodies, harmonies, and Jazz illuminated my dreams before I could speak. Music was the air in my family. It wasn’t a facet, but a cornerstone. Surprisingly, after I was convinced to join band, the obsession began. Music spoke to my soul like nothing else had. Four months after marching in my first football game, I applied for a marching position in a Drum Corps based in New York.
And I was accepted.
My family flew me to New York to join my future sisterhood of traveling musicians. Within the first week I thought I had lost it. I was miserable and in dire pain (working out 12+ hours a day at fifteen doesn’t exactly sound like fun) but refused to whine to my parents. It would not have taken much for them to fly me home. I had to do it.
I had something to prove.
The summer came and went far too fast. My skin burned under the sun on multiple occasions and I would sing and dance every evening to entertain the corps members. The morning runs (forwards and backwards) became easier, the trumpet shone brighter every day, and the little fifteen year old girl grew up– under the influence of classically trained musicians, naturally.
World Championships found us in the Sunshine State and every muscle tingled with excitement. The video recording of the event shows me smiling every moment I wasn’t playing the trumpet. (Seriously) The energy that filled the stadium that day was in competition against the sunshine and there was not a cloud in the sky.
Afterwards I ran to see my family as their expression mirrored my childhood. This time they did not ask the question but I answered it.
And I want to do it again.
Push myself to the test again I did. This time it was at 24 and I was competing in my first triathlon. I did horrifically (well.. 5th in my age group… but still) but after finishing pushing my body and mind past the brink of exhaustion, my statement rang in the ears of my friends and family.
Training starts for me officially on the 1st and I have three to five triathlons on the docket for 2013.
I don’t know if I’ve learned anything particularly spectacular throughout my young existence thus far… but I know hunger. I know passion. I know the fire that stirs in the still quiet cold night like tonight that feeds on fresh air.
And to my birthday tomorrow? Just like that fire…
Burn, baby, burn.