The problems I faced at age nine were - to my nine year old brain - more significant and daunting than any problems I'd faced so far, any problems I'd face in the future, and certainly any other problems other people were dealing with.
Sixteen years later, I wish I could say that I've gained some self-awareness, but I don't know. I can't.
What I have learned - is that regardless of age, your problems are always going to seem insurmountable. I've also learned that they rarely are.
That said, let's talk about the time I accidentally touched human poop.
I was nine, and like I said before, I had problems. I was a tiny runt of a child. None of the clothes at Limited Too fit me yet. I had a crippling fear of vomiting. Oftentimes waitresses wouldn't put enough cherries in my Shirley Temple. My mom overcooked broccoli 73% of the time. I was pretty sure I'd never meet the Backstreet Boys in person.
I know. It's hard to hear. But this was my life.
ALRIGHT - fine. I had a pretty cushy childhood. Whatever. There was always food on the table. I had parents that invested in my future. I had a car to drive in high school. I went to two Backstreet Boys concerts in middle school.
One childhood treat involved convincing my dad to take me to the nearby pool club, where they had both an indoor and an outdoor pool. This meant that theoretically any day of the year I could submerge myself in tepid stank-water, and I was happier for it.
I was in love with the pool. There was something about the way the chlorine made my scalp itch. I'll never forget it. The notion that you're just sitting in a big pot of stranger soup. Loved it.
Sometimes I'd bring a friend, but mostly I was content to spend hours alone, pushing the limits of my lung capacity. I'd doggy-paddle to where it was eight feet deep, and I'd go all the way under. I wouldn't take a deep breath first, though - I'd let it all out and then go limp. I learned early on that when you fill your lungs with air, you float - and when there's no air in your lungs, you sink.
So, goggles on, I'd sink. I'd sink until my butt hit tile, and I'd just sit there. It was immensely calming. All the daunting problems of my difficult life would linger on the water's surface, and there I was at the bottom, worry-free.
Worry-free, and also depriving my brain of oxygen. Which - I mean - I'm not a doctor, but I think brains need oxygen.
So I'd absorb the serenity of the stillness and silence until I couldn't take it anymore, and, head spinning, I'd shoot back up to the top.
My head would throb pleasantly, then I'd go back down. I'd repeat this sequence until my dad would appear at the surface after my 116th dive, asking if I'm kidding him with this right now.
I mostly stuck to eight feet. I was comfortable there. I was able to go decently deep while still having enough oxygen to appreciate the moment.
But there came a day when I said to myself, Kristin? You're nine now. Time to nut up and see what that drain is all about.
The drain was a grate at the bottom of the deep end. It was a mystery. I wanted to stare into its depths and find truth. I wanted Oprah's voice to come out of it and tell me how special I was. The problem was, the deep end was twelve feet deep. Unfathomable. Twelve feet was three of me. I'd avoided it for so long for lack of bravery but goddammit if I wasn't ready at the ripe old age of nine.
I got out of the pool and walked determinately to the far end. I avoided those gross puddles that accumulate around pools - you know, the ones that somehow end up filled with disintegrated toilet paper and rouge hair. The stuff of nightmares.
After mustering up all the courage I could locate, I lowered myself into the deep end and started to sink. I was in it for the long haul. I was a submarine captain, descending further and further into the unknown - in the name of science, and in the name of the United States of America. I missed my wife and kids, but I had a job to do.
Was that sexist? Assuming that only menfolk can command submarines? Well, I'm a lesbian in this scenario. So it's on you.
When I finally got to the bottom, I was too panicky to enjoy the zen moment, let alone the mystery of the grate. What I did notice, however, was something small and round near my foot. It sat there, unmoving. My immediate thought was that it was a dime.
You people are smart. You didn't forget that I Tarantino'd this story. From the beginning, you've known that I would inevitably be touching human poop at tale's end.
So, yes. What I thought was a dime ended up being a tiny, comically round nugget of poop. It was loose poop, and I had just touched it. I didn't just touch it, though. I grabbed it. It broke into a million poop particles, and I died. I died about it, right there.
I'd never pushed my lungs this far and when I finally made it to the surface I wanted everyone to know what I'd been through. Before I'd even taken a much-needed breath, I Paul-Revere'd the shit out of that place.
The lifeguard rolled his eyes and got the pool scooper.
And I, fanning myself while grasping the pool's ledge, lamented the loss of my life's one respite. The calming depths were forever tainted. Tainted by poop.