I learned how to walk twice.
First, as a baby – arms swinging like they had a life of their own. Feet tripping over a brown rug bunched up in corners, hips, swinging to the sound of a song only I could hear. My parents’ smiles, a tick in the right box, validation as firm as a hand on the small of my tiny back. I walked through our sitting room and picked up a certain lightness of feet, let it caress my soles and loved every part of it. On the school playground, I picked up a carefulness to where you step. Learned that playgrounds sometimes have jagged edges masked by the softness of sand. That cute little boys can sometimes be cruel enough to draw blood and tears and a certain roughness out of skin. Yet, there is a carefreeness to childhood that survives playground battles.
I learned I walked like a woman in my first year of university.
That there was a daintiness to my step that does not belong with men. A certain lightness of feet that made the guys uncomfortable and made the girls laugh. So while I had learned how to shave, how to say, sorry, please, and thank you. How to stand up for what I believed in. I had somehow missed out on the lesson to stamp every step into the ground like you are trying to make it remember you were here.
I learned, I did not walk like a man.
So when the laughter threatened to make me lose my girl, I started to watch other men. Observed how their shoulders seemed to expand outward with every step, how their arms did not swing like they had a life of their own, how they stamped every step into the ground like they had a point to prove to it. And so I learned to walk again. Through university classrooms and hostels, I learned to walk like their was no song on the wind.
Yet, no one told me, that the battles we have to fight in life have nothing to do with how we walk. That there are dark alleys that sometimes require flying. And that even if how you walk might matter, what matters most is that you never stop walking.