I was born one magical evening at sunset. The sky was crimson and turquoise, and so were my wings. All babies were born with wings, but mine were kissed by the sunset and especially beautiful. As I grew I would flex my wings, delighting in the sensuous power and exhilaration that came with dreaming about flying. My wings had the colors of a sunset reflected in the ocean, and grew stronger as I pushed them against the wind.
Time passed however, as it always does, and I grew older. I was told that the time for play was ending and that I must learn to be a young lady. Proper young ladies do not fly, rather they hold their wings still, secured with ribbons and bows to show off their shape and color, but never their magnificence or power. Proper women could not fly because their wings were atrophied and frozen in place. Pretending to fly was fine for little girls, but now I had to grow up and leave dreams of flying behind as I was molded into lady.
My grandmother told me repeatedly that nice young ladies do not fly. She had never even considered trying, and look how nice and atrophied her wings were. She told me I would embarrass the family if I did not stop spreading my wings. I must tie them back like a good girl and do what my family and friends approved of. Their happiness was more important than my silly dream of flying.
My mother told me that flying was not safe for girls, only for boys. Besides, it was hard and I should not try things that were difficult. I would look up at the sky and point where sometimes, high and far away I could see a woman flying. "What about her?" I would ask. My mother would shake head and tell me that good girls did not fly. Being safe on the ground was always a better choice than being free in the air.
My schoolmates told me that if I wanted boys to like me I would have to learn how to hold my wings still and quiet, so they would grow thinner and weaker. No boy would like a girl with strong wings who chose to fly.
I listened when they talked...I really did. I tried to hold my wings still. I tied them with ribbons every day at school, even though I was crying inside. I tried to forget the feeling of the wind caressing my wings, the feeling of strength and grace that came when my wings were spread, but I could not. My family and friends lectured me, but I wanted to fly more than I wanted their approval. I wanted the boys to like me, but not at the expense of abandoning who I wanted to be.
One night I told my father, who was a poet, about my dreams of flying amid the stars through clouds of silver mist and webs of moonlight. He hugged me tight and whispered that sometimes following one’s dreams and being different was the only way to be truly safe.
Finally one evening at sunset when the sky was crimson and turquoise, I walked into the surf and spread my wings. I turned into the wind and felt myself lifted from the waves into the sky.
At first I just traversed the beach, riding the wind with joy in my heart. The world rushed by under me as I flew higher and faster. At last I left the beach behind and allowed the wind to guide me, following the thermals and shifting breezes. I looked back and saw the narrowness of my town, something that I could not see from the ground. I had left a narrow place for the wide adventurous wildness of the skies and my dreams.
Dr. Elisa Robyn, a modern-day Renaissance educator and leader, is the author of The Way of the Well, a spiritual romance, and Pirate Wisdom, lessons in leadership. Her eclectic career positions include geologist, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Futurist, and Innovative Mojo Coach. Currently, Elisa is an executive director at Regis University. She holds a Masters degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her most current writings can be found at https://www.ElisaRobyn.com