Walking through the clouds, I can only see a few feet ahead, but I keep moving. A gust of wind, and now I am in open air. On either side, the ridge drops 2,000 feet. A loose stone defies my foot and I stumble, but Lauren reaches out and steadies me. We give each other nervous smiles, then turn our attention back to the trail.
I remember losing my eyes to a similar path not long ago. I was a young girl, just 12 years old, trying to find her away through a maze of broken promises and harsh words. In a whirl of last-minute decisions and phone calls, I found myself trudging up a dirt road to a cabin at Robin Hood Camp while my parents settled their divorce. I slipped through the door of what would be my home for the next five weeks and glanced at the strange faces I would come to know so well. It seemed then that I was only running away from the broken home I had left behind. I was partly right, but this place became my safe haven from the attorneys and courts of my parents' divorce in more ways than one.
* * *
We belt out a song to take our minds off the rocks below us. I yell from the inside of my belly and feel the exhilaration throughout my body. Never have I felt so alive. We know the summit is near, and our pace quickens with the anticipation.
* * *
I had just gotten off the phone and was hurrying back to the cabin. I didn't want anyone to see me and kept my head low. The tears in my mother's voice when she told me she couldn't keep the house echoed in my mind. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my friends lying on the lawn. I let my gaze absorb my feet and willed them to go faster. It was Lauren who noticed and ran to catch me. Among the many arms that wrapped around me in sympathy, all of the anguish and anger I had kept to myself was released and shared. I knew from then on that I would never have to face anything alone.
* * *
Three years later find me hoisting myself up a sheer cliff on Mount Katahdin. This is the culmination of the five-week counselor-in-training program at Robin Hood, one of the most intense periods of my life. Each summer, I returned from camp rejuvenated and ready for a new year. It has served as my stronghold amid the turbulent circumstances at home, while still challenging my character mentally and physically.
Lauren holds out her hand and helps pull me up over the final lip of the cliff. Shouting at the top of our lungs, we rejoice at the climb we have accomplished together. All those faces I have grown to love are creased with pride and laughter. Smiling, I turn and walk to the edge of the peak by myself. I am now above the clouds, and from here, I can see the world stretched out before me. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.