Crashing a Forest Party

There was something about the park that caught my eye — like it had been rearranged in a hasty effort or that it was no longer the park that I had spent countless hours walking through. There were freshly strewn branches scattered across the trail and trees that had fallen gracefully across the well worn path. The ground was damp, saturated with water to the point that mini streams flowed over the rocks that used to once help me grip the incline versus slip down it. There were mushrooms pushing through the dirt and sprouting on trees, out of season but still just as powerful and certain as if it had been their time of year to flourish. Pine cones had been thrown everywhere like confetti, showering down from the branches that reached high above my head. The rain barely made it through the thickness of the branches that still created a canopy above my up turned head, and when the wind blew I would think that the rain was picking up but in reality to was just the the trees being shaken dry and the scattered drops from their needles cascading down in one burst that passed with the wind. It was as if the forest itself had held a party the night before and I was walking through the morning aftermath, trying to pick my way through the discarded garments and passed out people without waking anyone to their own world of hurt. The party was not over and there were still a few stragglers left, stumbling about in the wind and I kept a watchful eye on the towering trees that swayed above me, not trusting that they would continue to be able to hold themselves up right. Mo seemed to have received the invitation to the party because he ran ahead of me with enthusiasm that only a dog who loves the trails does. He pranced from fern to fern, smelling where his friends had left their distinctive trail, and bounded in and out of the trees searching for something that I never did manage to see. The forest seemed to welcome him with open arms to the party, and only accepted my presence by association. He was obviously at home, while I was just a bystander who he had been polite enough to invite along for the occasion. Despite there only being two other humans present, we only briefly stopped to converse and comment on what a lovely day it was for being outside, despite the rain and the wind that was just now calming down and allowing the trees a moment of rest. I came across a few fallen soldiers of the forest, split in half and thrown across the undeveloped sections that allowed the plants to grow as freely as they chose. That’s where the heart of the party had been. It looked as if a giant had come along and splintered the trees like toothpicks, casually snapping them in half and then leaving them for dead on the forest floor never to be picked up again. The fallen soldiers changed the entire landscape of the forest. The path that I had once known like the back of my hand now seemed unfamiliar and leading to entirely new places. I felt like an explorer forging new lands with Mo blazing the trails for me. I felt as if the trees had secrets to share and that mysterious things happened in the park after night. There was an eeriness that I could not seem to shake, but it was not one that haunted me, it rather expanded my curiosity and motivated me to dive further and further into the trees so that I might learn the secrets that they kept from me. Mo already knew them though and I was jealous of his obvious connection with the forest — I followed him like a shy friend who was tagging along for my first real college party and clung to his presence so that everyone would know that I was invited and was not just crashing. He frolicked and ran free, ditching me at points in his unbridled excitement to explore further than I was able to go. He bounded up hills and dove underneath ferns, appearing as if he was looking for something, but I knew that he was just running around saying his hellos. He knew every inch of the forest that we covered and even more that I would never see. He blazed his own trails while I was left to follow the ones designated for humans, marking his path in case we needed to find our way back again. I trusted him to never lead me astray and my trust was not misplaced. He would always lead me further than I ever imagined I could go and he was always the motivation for me to be bold enough to attend the party in the first place. He was the friend who got me through the door and then trusted me to find my own niche at the party while he romped around with the old friends he has grown to love. He would always check in with me, making sure that I was alright and not lost, but after a two second check in, he would be off again, running to meet his friends and reach the other end of the forest before night fall. He never seemed to age when he was at a forest party, and the trees seem to shed years off of his life, making him a young puppy again playing with new found friends who could match his energy and spirit. He wore a smile that was contagious and allowed himself to be free in a way that I hope to one day obtain. When the party had to come to an end, he was not sad that it was over but happy that it had ever happened in the first place. He could spend forever in the forest among the trees, but he didn’t for my sake. When I told him I was tired and wanted to go home, he understood and said with a smile, “Okay, let’s go.”


Caught in Comfort

She woke with the strange thought that where she lay was not her bed, and what she woke to was not her life. She had to convince herself to peel away her covers and face the music that was reality, despite being fully awake, just in denial that this is what she woke to and the life she had returned to. When she had left, she had convinced herself that it was not too bad and that she was making the best of the situation that had been handed to her. But upon returning, she wondered why she had ever compromised in the first place – there were so many options for her in this world. She could be teaching English in China or Thailand, or draining the rest of her savings while touring south-east Asia. She could be hopping from hostel to hostel, working to earn her room and board and being satisfied with such menial wages. She could be filling her mind with the wonders and people of the world, but instead she had returned to responsibility and reasonable expectations. She remembered that she had a job that had her signed into a contract until July, and she had student loans that needed to be paid off. She remembered that she had people who counted on her and family that broke her heart to be separated from. She had medical prescriptions that could not be fulfilled abroad, and she would not last long without. Her home had a rational hold on her that she fought to break away from every day, as it felt more like a choke hold on her spirit rather than a hand of reason and comfort on her shoulder. Her ties stabilized her but also stifled the spirit that took her around the world and fed the hunger her eyes felt to see new sights and take in new scenery every day. She had revived her addiction to the irrational and unstable lifestyle that is a traveller’s reality, and the post travelling withdrawal was almost too much for her to handle now – it took all the willpower she had not to cry upon placing her foot back across the familiar threshold that she had left behind a month ago.

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Now Boarding: A Flight to the Unknown

She felt listless and distracted, and unable to focus on anything for longer than 30 seconds it seemed. She walked away from conversations, TV shows, movies, and tasks, with no interest in completing them or even remembering that she had started something in the first place. Nothing held her interest lately, and she would chain smoke spliffs out of frustration, hoping that the smoke would haze her vision enough that she could ignore whatever plans she had or improve them to the state of sparking her interest. More than usual in her day, she would stare out a window, lost in a thought that she could not recall five minutes later. She could feel the blank stare of her face, but had no energy or willpower to snap out of it. It was becoming frustrating, as she could not work through a singe task without spacing out in the middle of it and derailing whatver motivation she had had for completing the task at hand. She even took no interest in the practices and activities that usually gave her pleasure – writing was a challenge, the words being pulled from her brain slowly and painfull like a splinter from your finger; inhaling fresh air felt painful against the resistance of her smoke damaged lungs; and reading was reflexive, while she was not actually absorbing the words and thoughts that were on the page. She seemed to be existing in a shallow state, with something deeper pulling at her, distracting her from her ususal routine and confidence. She was fighting against the mental quick sand, struggling to keep her head above the expanding clutter that filled her brain. She felt hollow, but knew that that was not the case – she was fighting from being pulled down into the depths of her own mind, and being lost in the twisted, uncertain and ever churning bottomless turmoil.

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Anxious Annoyance

She could feel herself getting irrationally angry with everyone, as the departure for her trip neared closer and closer. She was getting annoyed at the littlest things, and even more annoyed with herself for being so bothered by such menial annoyances in the face of an amazing adventure that will be had by the end of the week. In the meantime though, everything everyone did around her was annoying for some unknown reason. She had no patience any more for the inconsiderate habits of others, like not replacing the last roll of toilet paper or chewing with their mouth open. She could no longer listen to the incessant bitching of her roommates and complaints about each other. She found all of her employees to have petty problems and waste her time with their complaints. She had no more energy to give to others anymore, as she tried to calm her anxiety and be excited for the approaching trip. In the face of so much excitement and worldly adventure, she had no patience remaining for the mundane elements of her life. She did not want to waste her time staring at spreadsheets any longer, and could not stand doing another batch of dishes. She wanted to just throw away anything that her roommates did to pick up after themselves, because she no longer found the House Elf reference to be funny, as she legitimately was the only person in the house that picked up after herself on a regular basis and did not complain to others about it, because it just needed to be done. She was on the verge of snapping at so many different people, that she had to keep her mouth shut recently, in order to not allow any words to escape, as she didn’t trust herself to not to allow a vicious insult to slip out. It was only the people who did not stand in her path on a daily basis, that had a pass from her internal wrath. She had no patience for excuses, weakness, or negativity lately – but she was hypocritically portraying all of these in her inexplicable anger.

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A Vacation from a Life of Luxury

She lived a life of luxury and took it for granted almost every day. She had a roof over her head every evening, and one that even kept the rain and the wind from disturbing her slumber. She had a room she called her own, that she decorated to fit her personality and preferences and designed to fit the function of her life. She had a broad, queen bed lined with layer after layer of blankets and pillows that kept her warm throughout the night and sleep like a Queen. She had fallen into the routine of lighting candles for pleasure, versus as source of light and burned the precious fuel that she would only miss when Mother Nature waged a war against the house’s electrical system. She had the excess income to fund her indulgent habits, yet still was always looking for more things to fill her life with that money could buy. She had an excess of clothes, that she picked and chose based on style preference versus function. She bought plane tickets and had a clean record that allowed her to leave her native country at her leisure. Not having enough food in her stomach was at the fault of her laziness, versus not having access to sustenance in the first place. She was able to focus on the mental illnesses that she had developed versus physical illness that destroyed her ability to think in the first place.  And when she did have a physical illness, she had the money and health care coverage to seek the professional help she required. Most of all though, she was rich with friends and good people in her life who would always stand by her side. There was more than one person in her cell phone who she could call and instantly be connected with for inspiration, support, and understanding. She had people who remembered her birthday, and celebrated it with her every year. She had a family that she loved unconditionally, and who did the same for her. She had the luxury of being herself, and having all the material and emotional support to always do so.

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A Wise Decision?

Would her trip to China go as planned? Would she enjoy the company that she had chosen to assemble around her? And would they hold up their own end of the travel partner bargain? Will they cramp her style, or suffocate her with their constant presence? Will they rely upon her to confidently lead the way in unknown areas? Or will they discredit her sense of direction and charge forward with their own plans? Would they be willing to watch her suitcase with a hawk eye while she went to the bathroom in the airport? Or will she be left out of the support system that they built with each other? Could she count on them to truly have her back in a foreign country? Or would they be more of a burden than support? Will she lose her passport or her mind first? – Hopefully neither, but she would place money on the second possibility.

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Finding Confidence in Uncertainty

She felt most certain in the face of others’ uncertainty. When there was no one else for the masses to turn to, she stepped up to the plate and was the leader that she always knew she was. However, in the face of a outwardly stronger and more vocal companion, she gladly stepped back and allowed others to take the reigns, and she began to question her own certainty in the face of their boldness. That is why when she was traveling, and placed in the most uncertain and unpredictable situations, she was incredibly sure of herself. Surrounded by the unknown – that’s when she was most secure in the knowledge of who she was. She moved on instinct, and trusted herself to make the best decisions possible, and when she didn’t she was confident that she would find a way to remedy whatever situation she got herself into. At times, she moved blindly and boldly, caught up in the moment over the details, which worried the meticulous planner in her – but it always worked out in the end because she knew she could make it happen. She knew how to move in crowds, how to function without her native language, and how to read the strangers around her. She was incredibly aware of herself at all times, to the point of driving her crazy, but this was a necessary and applaudable skill when traveling. Her odd mix of anxiety and introverted nature transformed and made her into a person who was hard for her to recognize when she was back in her home, looking at the pictures that had caught her truly living in the moment.
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