agility (noun). the capacity to move quickly and easily; ability to think and understand quickly.
When I was little, I was full-blown obsessed with the cheetah.
The gorgeous and exotic appearance, sleek graceful movement and swift nature would keep me mesmerized for hours as I’d sit around watching documentaries so that I could study them. It didn’t occur to me until much later in life that the potent medicine that this animal possessed was something that I too carried.
Weighing in at just over five pounds, I was an incubator baby— prematurely born in Buffalo, New York to two ill-equipped and terrified teenagers who figured, “Fuck it... we may as well just go with the accidental pregnancy.” It seems like, for a multitude of reasons, they didn’t realize that they had a choice.
Although my parents were very much in love at that time, we were on welfare most of my early life and I felt a lot of shame about this once I grew old enough to realize that many of my peers were not in the same position. I rarely saw my father between him working all the time, going off to the army reserves on weekends and god-knows-what-he-was-up-to-the-rest-of-the-time as I think he always felt trapped and victimized by the life that seemed to have chosen him.
We moved around constantly and I was plagued by a fair amount of isolation as a child. Although I always had one or two best friends around and ended up with a real tight crew from middle school onwards, things were a struggle in a lot of ways. I found much solace in my friends, my art and my books.
Family was always a very important value to both my parents and, though I was an only child for ten years, we had a very large extended family so that was another gift. Although I’d been born with many a handicap, it seemed like god hadn’t missed me with the talents and blessings either.
“Work what you got…” became my motto.
So, here’s the parallel story—
Cheetah is not the biggest, strongest, or most dominant animal on the block. At a glance, you may even be quick to assume they’d be easy prey— given their slender, somewhat scrawny build. In response to evolution, a lot of their muscle has been sacrificed to make their bodies more streamlined and agile. Up close, their face looks more like a kitten than a big powerful animal like the lion or jaguar.
And yet— their hunting prowess is remarkable. While others in the feline family tend to stalk their prey and need to be pretty close before finally pouncing on them, Cheetah runs down their prey, killing them swiftly with one bite to the throat. The only cat in its genus, they will quickly abandon a kill if larger animals arrive on the scene as they are not interested in putting up a fight. Cheetahs have a unique physical structure (e.g., non-retractable claws to give them extra traction; an unusually flexible spine to allow for rapid changes in direction when following prey) and are the fastest land animal in the entire kingdom. Their hunting efficacy can be attributed entirely to their speed and agility. Although they are considered “low” in the predator hierarchy likely due to their physical stature, cheetah is ranked in the top three in most studies in terms of hunting success rates (e.g., 58% success in one study conducted on the Serengeti in 2012) beating out leopards, lions and wolves.
All of this said— they are neither overly aggressive animals nor easily provoked. To this day, there is not a single record of a cheetah in the wild killing a human being. Cheetah prefer to live in wide, open spaces and they roam about more during the day than at night.