Wild Horses Couldn’t Take Me Away

by Susan Pogorzelski on November 29, 2009 · 21 comments

No sweeping exits or off stage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind…
The Rolling Stones, “Wild Horses

First day of school - susan pogorzelski

When I was little, excitement for change overruled my fear of it. I barely knew fear then, or, at least, I didn’t understand it.

I couldn’t wait to start school, to meet new friends, and to learn about everything and anything. Everyday, my grandmother and I would watch out the front window for the yellow school bus to amble down the street and bring my brothers home. I envied their backpacks and plastic superhero lunchboxes, and some evenings I would sit next to them at the kitchen table and pretend I was doing homework as well. School represented an entry to another world — a world filled with more games and books and friends; a world of unlimited knowledge.

And so, when it came time for me to start kindergarten, new shoes and my own plastic lunchbox and backpack in hand, I couldn’t be more excited. My mom walked us to the bus stop that first day, chatting with the other parents and kids as we waited for the bus to take us to that seemingly enchanted world that my brothers were lucky enough to go to each day. I followed them up the steep bus steps, the good butterflies causing me to grin as I waved goodbye to my mom.

I don’t remember much about kindergarten, but I know it wasn’t the experience I expected — or that anyone expects for their child. Bits and pieces of those memories come into focus, but the colors of the objects remain the most vivid, like I’m seeing the scene rather than the memory.

I remember the coat cubbies — bright, clean wood where we stored our lunchboxes and bags. I remember the tables and the small colored seats that were the perfect size for our little frames. I remember two or three computers lining a wall, and I remember crayons and construction paper and the chalkboard.

I remember the plastic scissors on which the boy sitting next to me accidentally cut his lip; I remember her face and how she yelled at him; I remember him being grabbed by the arm as he was told to clean up at the sink. I remember him — a mop of dark curly hair. I don’t remember his name.

If I think about it long enough, maybe I even remember hiding behind the winter coats in those cubbies, afraid to come out. But I don’t remember wandering the halls to find my brothers’ classrooms; I don’t remember hiding in those classroom closets or crying when I was brought back. I don’t remember being afraid to get on the school bus the following days, and I certainly don’t remember cutting words and high tones being directed at me.

But I do remember that my mom and dad pulled me out of that classroom as soon as they figured out what was going on. And I do remember the toys in the therapist’s office and how I was more interested in that dollhouse that looked like a tree that I was promised I could play with afterward than I was in talking. And I remember meeting my new teachers for the first time at the Montessori school that my best friend went to and how she held my hand as my mom and my teacher and I sat on a wooden bench outside of my new classroom. I especially remember running down the stairs after my mom, screaming and begging her not to leave me.

It’s the first time I can really remember fear.

Every single day my mom walked me to my new classroom. And every single day, my teacher would take me to the balcony overlooking the church of the building in which the school was held and speak to me in a gentle, soothing voice until my heavy breathing turned to hiccups and my tears left dry stain marks on my cheeks.

Soon, with the help of my parents, my teachers, and my best friend, I learned to love school again, returning the next year for pre-first grade. I remember that classroom. I remember sitting on the carpet reciting words for colors in French and Spanish. I remember writing my first book with my best friend, complete with illustrations and a cardboard and wallpaper cover, bound by binder rings. I remember doing cartwheels on the soccer field and riding the school bus with new friends. I remember the patience and soothing demeanor of my teachers. I remember smiling again.

early years - susan pogorzelski

I didn’t understand then this deep sense of fear and anxiety that seemed to plague me for so many months. All I knew was that someone was leaving me and I was afraid. Now, I wonder if a little of that fear has lingered with me all of these years, manifesting itself into a fear of anything that will upset this web of comfort and control that I have subconsciously so carefully constructed.

President Roosevelt once said, “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” But sometimes, that can be enough to change your world.

When I began having my anxiety attacks, we discovered that change was the trigger and mapped this fear of loss and perceived-abandonment (because while I know as an adult it is anything but, as a child that seems to be the natural assumption) to this part of my childhood. What was supposed to be a positive and exciting change turned into something I dreaded and feared. And while as an adult I want to love change and embrace it, I’m often too wary of it to do so for this very reason.

But just as I learned to smile again, just as I learned to trust and let go as a child, so, too, am I learning as an adult. Though she will always be with me, I’m not that same little girl anymore who hid away beneath the coats in a cubby. I’m learning to do now what I couldn’t possibly have done then…

I’m learning to fight back against my greatest enemy, to embrace my greatest strength:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam November 29, 2009

Wow…this is so beautiful. I truly commend and admire your honesty, and you have a way with words like I have never seen before. I’m so sorry that your first experience with school was so horrible, but I’m glad that you were eventually able to overcome it and learn from the experience. I can’t say I’m surprised that little Susan had more strength and courage than she realized, because grownup Susan is the same way. It seems that we are both learning a lot about ourselves these days. We are important and we have to put ourselves first sometimes. This is an amazing story, thank you so much for sharing it so eloquently, and congrats on just how far you’ve come!


Positively Present November 30, 2009

This is a fantastic post! That last line in particular was just brilliant… I can relate to it SO much!!


Brianne November 30, 2009

Yes, the last line resonated with me as well. We all have our own stories, I won’t bore you with mine. But it’s also important that we all realize that the only thing holding us back is ourselves. I struggle with this daily, of course, and I’m glad to see that you are conscious of it.

Very glad I subscribed to your blog :o)


Beth November 30, 2009

What a wonderful post! I totally dealt with many of the same issues, and really remember fear when I was young too. I love the honesty with which you write and really admire that about you. I also feel we would be great friends! we are very similar 🙂 I am learning more and more about your experiences through your blog and it has been a great experience.


Cheila November 30, 2009

This post warmed my heart. Oh how I love the pictures. You are so cute! I feel for you first experience in school. I am so glad you were able to overcome it. Wow, how I admire you more everyday. I swear if we ever met I’ll be lost of words. I admire you strength and courage to overcome any obstacle that presents to you. What a breath taking post. Thank you so much for sharing. I need to find time to chat with you, no excuses. 🙂


Kristina December 1, 2009

Wow, Susan! Thank you for being honest with us and sharing this story, giving us a glimpse into a little bit more about you. A great post!


Susan Pogorzelski - admin December 1, 2009

All: What I love about blogging is the fact that so many of us are experiencing similar journeys together — learning about ourselves, who we are, and who we want to be, being able to encourage and support each other all the while. Thanks to everyone reading for being along on this ride, which seems to stem even further than I realized, and will continue on, further still. Here’s to more healing of ourselves, helping each other, and walking at least this part of that journey together 🙂


Susan Pogorzelski - admin December 1, 2009

Sam: I really appreciate this comment because, truthfully, while others may recognize it, I don’t often see that strength and courage in myself. Which is why it amazes me that I can see that as Little Susan but not as Grown-Up Susan. Kind of amazing, still, to see how far along on this journey we really are — that it doesn’t begin and end in our twenties, but that a life is a life, the whole way through. Your own openness and support is just two of the things I love about you, so it’s so much appreciated. And yes, there’s a pun intended in there somewhere. Thanks, Sam, from the very bottom of my heart.


Susan Pogorzelski - admin December 1, 2009

Dani: Thanks so much for the comment!

Brianne: I’m glad you subscribed as well, but even more thankful that you stopped by to comment 🙂 Believe me that a person’s story can never bore me because I truly believe that this is what it’s about — sharing experiences, relating to another person through those shared experiences. Because those experiences are what makes us human and what helps us learn. At least, that’s my own viewpoint 🙂 That being said, if you ever do want to share, I would love to hear it and talk, only a click away 🙂

On your other note — my mom has always said that I’m my own worst enemy and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how true it was (I remember always rolling my eyes, shrugging my shoulder, and offering the “oh, Mom,” sigh of disregard). But it is true. Holding ourselves back, criticizing ourselves, holding it all in, whatever it may be — too often we do it to ourselves. Easier said than done to change that, but I’m really hoping I’m making the right steps towards doing so. And I hope that you are as well. Wishing you the very, very best!


Susan Pogorzelski - admin December 1, 2009

Beth: After hearing high praise from fellow bloggers, after reading your own blog and comments on others, I have no doubt that we do have a lot in common and I really look forward to talking more! It’s amazing how so many people can connect with a seemingly simple emotion, isn’t it? Just as strong as love, but hopefully not as powerful, it seems fear is something that everyone feels. Here’s hoping we each learn to overcome what we fear the most — or, at least, begin to understand it. I really appreciate you stopping by. Thanks again, Beth!


Susan Pogorzelski - admin December 1, 2009

Cheila: Thanks! I definitely don’t look like that now. Maybe a teeny-tiny bit. But I’ve gotten taller. A teeny-tiny bit 🙂 I appreciate your comment, Cheila. Honestly, I don’t know how much I should be admired as I’m still working through a lot of what I write, these experiences and how I feel. The blog is the outlet where I make sense of it all and then I try to work through that as I go on with life, at least a bit more cognizant, a bit more aware, thanks to reflection. But still, sometimes that struggle is a hard one and that journey is a long one. I love that you think I overcome obstacles — maybe I do and just never recognized that for myself, but if I do, it’s with A LOT of work! Thanks for your positive comments, as always. And don’t ever become speechless! How else would we have that conversation I’m looking forward to? =P


Susan Pogorzelski - admin December 1, 2009

Kris: I don’t really know what to say to you other than thank YOU. Thanks for letting me be so open and honest, for making it so easy, for providing that support, for caring. This is what makes it worth it — to know that I can share some of the deepest parts of myself, to be able to connect with other people through these stories and experiences, and to know that I can call them friends. So thanks to you for being there and being so encouraging, so supportive. Now about that ski trip… 🙂


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

{ 9 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: