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"Any minute now, they're going to tell me my boobs are on fire," I thought. I glanced down at the hoop flying around my body. It's not like I'd never played with a hula hoop before. Hell, I'd been hooping for nine months, the better part of a year. It's just that this particular hoop happened to be attached to six short, flaming wicks.
In the brief safety lesson we'd had before they threw us out here, hoops a-blazin', we were told that if any part of someone's body caught on fire, their safety had to yell out, "Your (body part here) is on fire!" At which point, we would drop the hoop and get patted down with a special blanket that ate fire for sustenance or something.
As I watched the flames licking away at my bosom, I felt certain that I was about to be touched inappropriately by someone I'd just met that weekend as a result of my idiotic desire to spin a flaming object around my person. What was I thinking? These flames were really hot. Part of me wanted to get out of this crazy hoop, hand it off to the next person and be done with it. But another part of me was loving it. The part of me that had something to prove.
Rewind to nine months prior. I'd been hooping for three days. A friend and I were in the park, awkwardly playing with our new toys, doing our best to do something, anything even vaguely impressive with them. Mostly, we just smacked ourselves in the face a lot. Beginner hooping is not terribly graceful. But we were having a lot of fun.
A couple of guys came up to watch us make fools of ourselves as we futzed around. They sat down on top of the picnic tables near by. After a while, one of them asked us, "So are you guys professionals or something?"
I laughed, wondering if he'd actually been watching what we were doing or not. "Um, no," I said. "We are very, very beginners."
"Oh," he said, sliding off of the table. "My buddy and I just got back from Burning Man, and there were all kinds of people with hoops there. Lots of professionals. Some were even hooping with fire."
At this point in my hooping career, I'd done quite a bit of YouTube obsessing, so I'd seen people hoop with fire. It looked like one of those things that only a very special and select group of people got to do. The sort of person who has no fear, who lives life fully and passionately, in other words, not me. And the idea that hooping was something one could make a living off of seemed like a pipe dream...but an agonizingly desirable one. Who was I to think about making my living off of something I'd only been doing for three days? Who was I to think about hooping with fire when I could barely keep the hoop from flying off into the distance whenever I touched it?
My friend and I chatted with the men a few minutes more before they took off, leaving us to think about the exchange. She shook her head, looking at her hoop and saying, "I could never, ever hoop with fire."
I was about to agree with her, that sort of knee-jerk, default agreement you make when you're hanging out with your friends and you're not really thinking, just talking for the sake of talking, agreeing for the sake of agreeing. I had my mouth open to say, "Yeah, me neither," but I stopped myself. Instead, I said, "You know, right now, I certainly couldn't hoop with fire. But I'm not going to say I never could. I might get to the point where I feel confident enough that it might be possible."
In that moment, as soon as I'd said it, I knew I would hoop with fire one day. Even as ridiculous as it seemed right then, when all of my efforts to get the hoop from my waist into the air ended up knocking the glasses off of my face. I almost felt silly thinking it. But I knew. Something in that moment, in that statement, opened a door. I would make it. Somehow, who knew when or how or where, I would hoop with fire.
Fast forward. Nine months later. One thousand and two hundred miles from home, from that park where we'd first practiced. Surrounded by people that, until two days ago, I knew only through their YouTube videos. I took the heavy hoop in my hands, knelt over the flame and lit it on fire. Then I spun it around my waist.
It wasn't terribly graceful. It wasn't exactly impressive. It didn't matter. I had made this happen. I had gotten to this moment because I needed to, because it meant something, because I had the power to make my goals manifest. What had seemed so impossible, so far away and unreachable just nine months earlier was now my present moment, swirling around me, threatening to end my struggle with having an over-sized chest.
I had no choice but to love it. I had no choice but to own it. Because I'd created it from nothing. And I will never forget it.