Just before I fell asleep, a car swerved into my lane and shoved me off the road, jolting me out of that twilight state and back into my bed where I was safe and sound.

Well…safe. I’m not too sure about sound.

It took some calming affirmations to get myself relaxed enough to truly fall asleep. But whenever I woke in the night, I still had this unsettling feeling—as if at any moment, something unexpected would happen to derail me. As if I shouldn’t have been on that road.

As if I made a wrong turn.

I’m often invaded by sudden images, sometimes while wide awake. I’m walking along when—BAM!—I see and feel myself twisting an ankle. I can even hear the familiar crunch. It’s sudden and visceral and startling. And I hate it. But I understand it: I have a long history of falling off my foot.

The first time it happened I was living in Manhattan. I had just spent the day rehearsing for Cats, executing all manner of coordinated feats, when I stepped in a pothole and twisted my ankle. After that, all it took was a less than solid step for me to, literally, fall off my foot. No pothole necessary. Just a slight misalignment and down I’d go. It’s happened dozens of times since then, always unexpected, always painful, always accompanied by cringe-worthy crunch and a shock of pain.

So what does this have to do with a car running me off the road?

Insecurity

The unexpected car veering into my lane and the ankle I keep re-twisting in my imagination are signals from my subconscious that I’m feeling uncertain about myself. Did I take the wrong turn? Am I on the right course? Or is the bridge out ahead and I’m headed for disaster?

That’s what I love about this Toontown sign: It reminds me that wrong turns are okay, but more than that, it implies that wrong turns are a natural part of getting from here to there.

It’s scary to stretch out of the comfort zone.

We don’t know what to expect.

We don’t know how others will respond.

We don’t know if we’ll inadvertently cause harm or create a monumental mess.

We’re taking a chance, and in the process, risking failure.

So yeah… it’s scary. And yet, it needs to be done. Otherwise, how can we grow?

I remind myself of this when the startling images catch me unaware—while falling asleep, while walking through a lobby, while sitting at a table with friends with whom I should feel completely comfortable and am not. I shake off the feeling—a very visceral feeling—and remind myself that I am capable of handling whatever comes. Because that’s really what matters, isn’t it?

Confidence isn’t about always being right or perfect, it’s about knowing you can get back on course when you take a wrong turn.

Tori Eldridge
Tori Eldridge is a Honolulu-born mystery/thriller/suspense writer and a 5th degree black belt in To Shin Do Ninjutsu. Her debut novel, The Ninja Daughter, will be published by Agora Books in Fall 2019. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, and her non-fiction Empowered Living: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection is available as an ebook. Before writing, Tori performed on Broadway, television, and film and has traveled the country teaching seminars on ninja arts, weapons, and women's self-protection.
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