Warning: Your Fulfilled Desires Will Leave You Stranded

In elementary school, the monkey bars were my scene during recess.

Unaware we were actually getting exercise—one of the reasons for recess—my friends and I regarded the physical activity as a way to socialize.

The different types of playground equipment were the youth equivalents of coffee shops and nightclubs.

Older girls always sat on top of the monkey bars, forming a tree house of sorts where they surveyed the playground and gossiped.

My days of simply doing pull-ups and hanging from the structure seemed numbered; if I wanted to grow up, I needed to learn how they climbed up through the bars to bask in all their glory.

I studied the Monkey Bar Queens’ techniques for weeks, noting how they positioned the palms of their hands and the moments when they paused to get their balance.

One day after school, when I didn’t have to be rushed back to class, I decided I was ready.

I swung to the spot I desired, pulled my legs up, and thrust my feet through the horizontal ladder to give myself leverage to pull the rest of my body through the opening.

My fingers tightly gripped the cross-section of the bars as I adjusted into a sitting position.

I was pretty much a professional gymnast.

All my hard work paid off, and I swiftly reached my goal on my first attempt.

It felt great, and I couldn’t wait to show everybody the next day at recess.

Time to get down.


Uh-oh. I hadn’t studied that part.

My entire focus was on reaching the upper-level of the monkey bars; I didn’t realize I’d still have more to learn.

I considered reversing the steps I took to get up there, but all I could think about was falling flat on my face.

I froze.

The gates would close, the sun would set, and I’d stay on the playground all alone overnight.

Just as I got comfortable with the worst-case scenario and accepted my fate, a friend walked by.

“Hey, Mike …”

“Yeah, Stef?”

“I climbed up here and don’t know how to get down. My mom’s waiting for me in her car, and I bet she’s wondering where I am. Can you go get her for me?”

Mike The Saint obliged.

Once my mother was there, my panic faded, and I began to see a way down.

I knew exactly what I needed to do, but I was too mentally and physically exhausted at that point to attempt The Descent.

A Big & Tall after-school playground attendant was called over to lift me up and carry me down.

My journey to monkey-bar maturity turned into a humiliation that made me feel more childish than I had in a long time.

When you get to your destination, there’s always another obstacle.

Do you know how to get down from the monkey bars?

Book About Heartbreak

Stefanie Flaxman is the creator of @RevisionFairy and author of a new book about heartbreak.

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