Never Blown Off Course

by Bryn Watkins

Let me start by saying that there is very little in the world that I truly hate. The list consists of only two items:

1) The word “scallop.” (I promise there’s no story behind that one even if you ask. Just hearing that word is like nails on a chalkboard.)
2) Wind.

When I say that I hate wind, I mean it wholly and devotedly. If it’s hot in the summertime, let me sweat; the whole fan-on-my-face-while-I’m-trying-to-sleep thing is a massive no. If you’re sitting behind me trying to be cute by blowing on the back of my neck, I will actually consider murder; drastic though it may seem, I am to wind as Meursault is to that hot Algerian sun. And in the most obvious and extreme way, when Mother Nature gets a particular bee under her bonnet and goes all drama queen on the rest of us who have no democratic or effective way of administering a sedative, I have, in fact, been known to cry.

So in a turn of events that likely seems as obvious to you at this point as it did to me, a month ago I chose to move to arguably the windiest city on the planet. It’s great.

The wind in Wellington, New Zealand, is the most staunch and enthusiastic identifier the city seems to offer. Despite how generous the people are and how beautiful Middle Earth is, neither of those admirable bits of Wellington are quite as insistent or consistent as the gusts that sweep the city every single second of every single day. And night. I would take it personally if I weren’t convinced that the wind remains so doggedly indomitable in a patriotic and (almost) endearing effort to defend Wellington’s title as The Windy City (sorry Chicago, you’ve been outdone). The effort would even be laudable if we removed from the equation the fact that–oh that’s right–it’s wind, at which point it resumes its position as Public Enemy Number One. Note that this is coming from one who has lived through a hurricane, so trust me when I say I know a thing or two about the subject. The wind blows at night, banging its way through the streets and rattling the windows. The wind blows in the morning, just for that moment as you first wake when you might otherwise–heaven forbid–forget that you’re anyplace in particular. The wind blows by the bay and atop mountains, the wind blows on the streets and in the car (because for some inexplicable reason everybody here likes driving with their windows down). The wind blows up your dress and down your shirt and sideways and backwards and runs circles around you when it feels like getting creative. As I’ve often expressed to the offender itself, could it just stop?! For one minute?!

As difficult as it is for me to separate this subject from its metaphor, I’ve realized that there are going to be more frustrating adversaries in my life than the wind–some of whom will be even more infuriating in their stamina than Wellington’s gales. Maybe it will be someone telling me that I can’t do something–maybe it will be someone telling me that I shouldn’t. Perhaps it will be a stranger, or a co-worker, or a so-called friend, maybe being malicious or maybe just doing what they think is in my best interest.

I don’t know who your most persistent foe is, roaring against you while you push from A to B, whether it’s your gender or your color or your boss or whatever. How do you handle it it? How do you deal with unapologetic, relentless antagonism?

For me, it’s easy to find encouragement from those whose efforts led to some appreciable triumph, whose foes were eventually vanquished, and peaks summitted with a declarative note of finality. I find inspiration in one of my favorite childhood heroes–Jane Goodall–who chose to move to Africa at 23 to study chimpanzees, even in the face of some self-evident counsel to do otherwise. Or Amelia Earhart, who insisted on becoming a pilot even though she was female (sorry, is female–she’s still out there), or Bessie Coleman who followed suit even though she was black.

It would probably be good for all of us to remind ourselves–even as we swallow our own daily dose of pushback–that perseverance writes history. Determination in the face of resistance blazes trails that others end up following years and decades later. Purposeful intransigence has built nations and erected temples, invented lightbulbs and discovered radium.

And yet the wind in Wellington will not stop blowing. Ever. And those foes? The ones that stand in the way of our history-making and trail-blazing? They require just as much endurance as those who don’t. When the wind blows, I’ve learned I must keep forcing my body forward, just as I must keep insisting on the future I see on the horizon. So I keep putting one step in front of the next because it’s those little steps that will get me from A to B even with the gales blustering every step of the way. Particularly when the wind gets wet with rain and I’m still blocks from where I’m headed, I must keep putting one foot after the other, step by step by step by step.

The wind, for its part, will bluster as vigorously as ever, because that’s what wind does. But I will always keep pushing, because that’s what I do. And when I do get there–wherever that may be–I’m pretty sure I’ll discover that I’ve only made it by some mixture of divine resolution and my own headstrong marching.

And so I stand here at the door, bracing for the long walk home through the streets of windy Wellington. Resolved to never ever be blown off course.

5 Comments on “Never Blown Off Course

  1. Dearest Bryn, I was very interested in your take on my dear friend, the wind. I love open, windy, convertibles. Ernesto loves the wind. I love sail boats more than stinky, engine/propeller driven boats. I love open cockpit airplanes with 100 mph winds. The wind is an honorable adversary at times and a dear friend at others. Head winds, tail winds, cross winds, and squirrely winds all bring variety and challenges that are an integral part of all adventures. Wellington is smack dab in the middle of one of the most dependable trade winds of the world making the New Zealanders some of the world’s best sailors. I love you, and in spite of the consistent presence of Mr. Wind, you are determined to not be blown off course. Grandpa Wells

  2. I’ve dealt with strong winds of hardship, myself. Stand with dignity and resolve, and be not moved. Let it rage around you as you go about your business in the quiet eye of the storm.

  3. Dad, you are so cool. Bryn, you are so cool. You two are my heroes, separated by 60 plus years of life and experience. Thank you both for your lessons.

  4. My darling Bryn, You continue to be a ‘teacher’ to me through your resolve to “not be blown off course”. Your writings are so inspirational and delightful at the same time. Keep writing, my dear granddaughter. They should be published as a book. Seriously! Waiting anxiously for that hug of yours this next weekend. Your adoring Grandma XXOOXXOO

  5. You write really beautifully. Thanks for your words. I like your metaphor. And I think as we keep putting ourselves in uncomfortable positions, choosing to step into the wind, we learn so much about ourselves and develop muscles and insights we never would have attained otherwise. I envy your Wllington windy experience! It’s on my bucket list…but not for the wind. 🙂

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