Railroad crossing

Posted on 05/18/15

It’s an interesting time to be me right now. On Cinco de Mayo, I was told that after 14 years, “we’ve decided to make a change.” (You’ll get that if you’ve seen “Bull Durham.”) My department head handed me a packet of folders indicating my termination date, severance package, and benefits. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and for nearly two weeks I’ve been telling myself this is a good thing. I wasn’t happy there. It wasn’t fulfilling (and it sure wasn’t paying what I needed it to). This is my chance to find a job I love to do.

I decided to call myself a full time writer. After all, we all need labels. It took a few days to get rolling but I started writing 3k words per day until I finished “Heated Competition.” I’m going to read through “Indulge” first,  then start deep edits on “HC”.

I also have a ton of personal stuff to do. School events, medical appointments, you name it. This week has at least one reason each day for me to get out of the house. Not that I want to. Really, now that I have the time to write, I want to do it all the time. I believe it truly is the job I love to do, even though right now it pays nothing. I want to believe that it will be the career I’ve always wanted. Funny but I can’t even regret starting at it so late. I’ve read what I wrote at 20. It was god-awful. I’ve taken classes and I’ve written one million words. I don’t want to be a professional writer because I have to. I want to be a professional writer because it’s what I do.

Anyway, I’ve also had time to do things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for, like exploring the local park where I usually run. I’ve taken to finding trails off the main road and taking pictures.

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There’s a rail line that runs through the park. Conrail trains pass through on Sunday nights but not often during the day and I’d wanted to explore it. I knew the line ran to a street two blocks from my house, so I knew I’d end up home eventually, but along the way…? Sure, let’s take a look.

It was gorgeous and peaceful and secluded. I startled a nesting pair of ducks that had taken up residence in a large puddle alongside the tracks. They walked along ahead of me until I caught up with them, and then they flew off.

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Eventually the tracks let to a trestle that passed over the walkway I usually took into and out of the park. I thought, “Okay, fine; I’ve been here before. No problems.” I’m not good with heights or falling or bridges but as long as I didn’t look down and the bridge itself is solid, I’d be fine, right? Except the bridge isn’t solid. Between the wooden posts, I could see not just daylight but the stream twenty feet below.

I was frozen. Literally paralyzed by fear. I couldn’t move. I saw that drop down to the stream and everything inside me said, “Oh hell no. You shall not pass.”

I looked behind me. It was at least a half mile walk back to the nearest path to get back to the paved walkway. I could do it but geez, another mile? When the path home was right here in front of me? Don’t be a puss.

But I couldn’t. There were gaps. I might fall through one of them. (Seriously? I’m a grown woman. Those gaps are 3 inches wide at best.) Or I might drop something and never get it back. (Definite possibility. I liked my water bottle but it was replaceable. The phone would be more of a hassle, however.) Or I might crack one of the wooden boards and get hurt. Or really, just the idea of falling was scary enough. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even put my foot on the first board. I backed up and stood there, looking ahead at the train bridge, not knowing what the hell to do.

But then I took a few deep breaths. Well, shallow breaths. It was the best I could do. I coached myself, “Don’t look down. Just put your foot on the board and focus on the board. And the next board.” So I did. Very quickly. I’d have stepped on each board at a time but geez, that would’ve taken forever, so once in a while I did skip a board, all the while telling myself, “Only look at the board. Don’t look between.”

I got about halfway across and then, for whatever idiotic reason, I stopped. I didn’t look between the boards but I was frozen again. My brain said, “Oh for the love of Magic Mike. Trains can cross this bridge. YOU can cross this bridge,” and I started walking again.

When I saw the space between the slats were solid with dirt and rocks again, I trembled with relief and looked back. Holy mother of God, I did it. To this very moment I still can’t believe I crossed that bridge without peeing myself, but here I am at home with the pictures to prove it:

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The first is before I realized there were open spaces between the wood. The second was my, “Oh, what a pretty view there is up here!” pic, also taken in total ignorance. The third is the pic from the other mother f*cking side of the bridge where I would’ve whooped in celebration were it not for the fishermen below the bridge.

Lesson learned: don’t ever say you can’t do something. You can. Even if you think you can’t, you can. You just have to push past the fear and make it happen.

 


4 Responses

    Comments

  1. Laura says:

    And you’ve run across much longer and taller bridges, too. There is nothing you can’t do!

    • The beauty of the Chesapeake Bridge was that it was all solid under my feet. This one wasn’t. The drop was higher on the Chesapeake, though, and there was a LOT more water under it. I’m not talking myself out of the 10k, I’m NOT talking myself out of the 10k… ;)

  2. Lynn Kellan says:

    Wait…did the ducks cross that bridge, too? ‘Cuz if they did, you HAD to go over that bridge so you wouldn’t look like a major wimp! :)

    And if they didn’t cross the bridge, then I’m doubly inspired to attempt the bridges that frighten me.

    • No, Lynn, the ducks flew off in search of a place to hang out without humans pestering them.

      That bridge really did scare me. I don’t like driving over bridges either, which is funny considering I grew up on Staten Island, which is, you know, an island. I used to work in NJ, too, so I had to cross a bridge every day for 3 years or so. I just locked my hands on the steering wheel and sang at the top of my lungs. The fishermen yesterday might not have appreciated that so much. Or the fish, for that matter. :)

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