Calculated Chances: A #LessonLearned by Darlene Steelman

Darlene Steelman grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: a misunderstood kid with a crazy mind. Finally, at the age of 38, she decided to put that crazy mind to good use and write. When she’s not stopping her car in the middle of the road to protect crossing ducks, she passes time with an office job, writing on her lunch hour, and singing off-key in the car.

By night she works on her first novel. (She also plays me at Words with Friends.)

Darlene’s blog is called Living Sober – Life at Full Throttle. You can also find her on Facebook and stalk her on Twitter at @DarleneSteelman.

Click on the teacher lady's nose to see other folks who have shared their lessons.

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Calculated Chances

As I push 40, there are many things I have learned over the course of those years.  Always say please and thank you; hold the door for old people and be very sure to take the trash outside if it has raw onions in it.

But are any of these really lessons? Maybe the last one.  Maybe.

As a kid I (like most kids) did really dumb things. I once roller skated down my grandmother’s driveway straight into the garage knowing I would fall flat onto my face when I didn’t lift my feet over the lip to get into the garage.

I knew this.  But I wanted to know what would happen.  So I kept my skates on the ground.  Those skates stopped propelling forward when they hit that cement lip. I hurled forward, but not onto my face (thankfully!).  I landed on both knees.  My knees screamed in a bloody fashion as I cried for my grandmother.

My grandmother (who grew up a poor, coal miner’s daughter) called me a horse’s ass and said, “Darlene, get up. Stop crying.  You’ll be fine.”

I was an eight year old in shock at that point.

“Get up?” “Stop crying?” Fine?!”

Turns out my grandmother’s refusal to coddle and baby me worked to my advantage as the years passed.

Well, most of the time.  I still have that “ooh I wonder what will happen if I do this?” mentality.

When I was somewhere between eight and eleven years old, I was in the bathroom at my parents’ house and brushing my teeth with Crest toothpaste or something. My parents used Pepsodent, which is the equivalent of brushing your teeth with gasoline.

Pepsodent toothpaste

Pepsodent toothpaste (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mind started going as my eyes drifted over to the Pepsodent.  Pepsodent.  Hmm.  This stuff is pretty strong.  I wonder what would happen if I put it on my eyelids, like eye shadow?

Yes.  That is a thought process I actually had when I was a little girl.

And to keep you from suspense any longer, I did put the toothpaste made with real gasoline on my eyelids.  It burned like hell.  Yet, there was a cool mentholated feeling.

I really think there was potential there to permanently blind myself.

The next three minutes in the bathroom went something like:

“Owwwww!” as I frantically searched around for a towel or something to wipe the damn gasoline off of my eyes.  It was piercing the lids as it seeped into my eyeballs. As I write this I am laughing because I can see myself with flailing arms (much like Jodi Foster in the dark room in Silence of the Lambs) trying to find a wash rag or towel or something in the bathroom to wipe off my eyelids.

Nope. Nothing.  Had I prepared I would have remembered there was never a towel in the bathroom at my parents.  Never.

“Oh my God, I am gonna go blind!” I whispered to myself as I refused to cry.  I could not cry.  Only sissies cried.  I was no sissy.  Gram would not tolerate me crying.

I managed to get myself out of the bathroom and into my bedroom (which thankfully was right next to the bathroom) and get the toothpaste off of my eyelids.  I was able to see clearly about an hour later.

The lesson I learned was this: take chances!  Unless it involves putting chemicals in a creamy mentholated form on your body, then be sure to read the fine print first.

Calculated chances are important.  They build our character and sometimes we learn that the one thing we feared became that thing we loved the most.

When is the last time you really took a chance at something? Did you succeed or fail? Or did you burn your eyelids?

27 responses to “Calculated Chances: A #LessonLearned by Darlene Steelman

  1. Darlene! I am so glad that you are here today to share your lesson. You truly are a woman who has learned much bigger lessons than these, and I admire you — your strength and courage — so very much. Can’t wait to read your book!

    • Renee! it is such an honor to be here! Thank you for letting me share my whacky story of a hard lesson learned.. lol. I worked all day today and am off to job #2 at the moment… Fun!! Tonight I am looking forward to coming home and reading all the tales your readers shared of some lessons they learned.
      As far as the book goes – I am up to Pg 104 in edits! Yay!!! Have a great night… I’ll be back in the wee hours of the morning..

  2. Darlene! I can just picture you roller skating and nearly blinding yourself … after watching the summer olympics (as a kid, I feel I must add), I became inspired to try a cartwheel … off the piano bench. I stood there, KNOWING that it was not a good idea to land a good 3.5 feet below merely on my arm, but jumped anyway. Of course I sprained my wrist and started screaming, causing my mom to run into the room and ask what happened. “Um, I did a cartwheel and landed funny.” I was years before I added the “off the piano bench” to the story. Calculated risk. Great lesson!

  3. Darlene you wild child! I am so glad that you didn’t go blind! I remember yelling, “Look mom no hands!” right before flying off the swings one time….

  4. I like the way your brain works, lady. Pretty much because it makes me feel a little less ashamed of that old “shaving the eyebrows off” incident in 4th grade. Okay, so maybe it was 11th grade. Small details🙂

  5. Oh my, I hadn’t thought of Pepsodent in years. I did dumb stuff, too. Thankfully I survived most of them and have a few scars to show for it. Taking chances has somehow fallen out of fashion. Risky business is just a movie. I find as I get older, taking risks makes life funner! Starting a blog was the biggest risk (and dumbest according to my wife) I have taken, but it has been the greatest reward. You keep going, keep wtiting, and keep taking risks and chances!

    • HI Clay – I have noticed that I don’t hear much about people taking chances anymore.. well, ok, Pepsodent on eyelids is definitely NOT a smart calculated risk… but taking risks is how we push our limits! I think it is wonderful that you started a blog! Keep up the great work, Clay.

    • Clay, non-bloggers don’t get it! I think your blog is great. Even if I don’t always comment. Hoping to find more reading time post bar mitzvah!

  6. LOL. I like the way you roll, Darlene. Hmmm. One time, I decided to write my friend’s name (Angie) on the siding of her house. I don’t know why. It just seemed like an interesting thing to do. After all, it was her house, wasn’t it?

    I couldn’t help myself. ‘Tis the story of my life.

    Howdy Renee.

  7. Darlene – roller skating into the garage? That’s almost as dumb as the time when I was about 5 (never mind how many decades ago that was) and decided to step on a large nail protruding from a board to see if it would penetrate my shoe. It did!

  8. I remember writing on my arms a lot. In marker. It drove my mother crazy.😉

  9. I can just imagine the roller skating fall, must have hurt.
    One summer holidays, when I was about 12, my best friend and I decided it was a good idea to write the names of the guys we liked with sunscreen on our legs. Then stay out in the sun all day. That evening we were bright red and highly embaressed as our parents sat and laughed at us. The next day we stayed indoors with long pants on.

  10. I drank a strawberry shampoo when I was about 6-year-old. I liked it. I guess, some vitamins were missing from my body’s system… lol

  11. Pingback: #LessonsLearned: Guest Posts for 2012 « Teachers & Twits

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