Spring 2006. I was 8 years old, thriving in second-grade and studying hard for the local spelling bee. Life was good — except for a sense of constant pain.
Growing up in a small, west Texas town, I ran around and played in grass that was brittle and brown year-round. It was in this arid environment that I made the kind of silly mistake only an eight-year-old can.
One afternoon in March, my brother and I walked to the park down the street to play catch. I was a chubby, unathletic child wearing camouflage Crocs, a LimitedToo tee and brown gaucho pants. It was a classic recipe for disaster.
As I raced after a baseball that had been thrown terribly off course, the incident occurred: my Croc slipped right off, landing my bare foot in a giant patch of stickers.
I dramatically threw myself to the ground, effectively covering my entire backside in grass burrs. This just elevated my hysteria, and I howled in agony as my brother ran home to get our mom.
After five minutes of probably the worst pain any human being has ever experienced, Mom sweetly helped me pick off all the stickers and helped me slowly limp home, tears still glistening in my eyes. The whole ordeal only lasted about 10 minutes — or so I thought.
After a couple days, my foot was still sore in one spot; there was a splinter stuck in my heel. It was more irritating than painful, and using the flawless logic of a second-grader, I told myself that it would come out on its own at some point. I was convinced that telling my mom about it would only bring about pointless suffering, so I stayed silent.
Weeks passed, and — surprise — the splinter didn’t come out. Aggravation turned into discomfort, which eventually turned into pain. Still, I didn’t do anything about it due to the fear that actually taking out the splinter would hurt way too much.
Once, my mom caught me limping when I didn’t think she was looking. I panicked as she asked what was wrong.
“I’m just practicing my acting,” I replied quickly. “You thought I was hurt, so I must be a really good actress. But nothing is wrong.” You know, like a liar.
My mom wasn’t even surprised by this bizarre claim; I was a pretty weird kid.
After over a month, it became too painful to bear. Mustering all the courage I had, I admitted everything to my mom, who calmly and quickly removed the splinter.
It hardly hurt at all.
For weeks, I had been petrified at the thought of removing this splinter. I told myself over and over that the pain in my step was preferable to dealing with the problem itself.
While I’d like to think I’m not quite the weird little liar that I was in 2006, I still tend to avoid doing anything that scares me. I’d still rather play it safe than take a risk. I struggle to put anything into motion if I’m not certain of a positive outcome.
At any given point, we all have splinters stuck in our heels. Whether the uncertainty be big or small, it’s tempting to just ignore the issues at hand and beat around the bush. Why address the unknown when you can just evade the question? Why take out the splinter when you can just pretend it’ll go away on its own?
It’s time to stop waiting for someone else to take charge. There are things that need to be said, so say them. Avoidance doesn’t make things disappear — it prolongs the pain.
Take the plunge. Bite the bullet. Seize the day.
Take out the splinter.