I took my last sip of hot chocolate and stuffed myhands into my gloves. Taking a deep breath, I stepped out into the icy wind andventured to my car. I turned the key and it started as reluctantly as I was tocomplete my assignment.
In English my junior year I studied the works ofHenry David Thoreau. My assignment was to choose a spot in nature and write aboutit as Thoreau did once a month for eight months. My journal about nature wassupposed to go above and beyond simply describing events - I was supposed to comeup with some profound meanings of life.
Okay, I thought. I'll just sitand write about what I see. This shouldn't take too long; I'll be out of here in10 minutes. It can't be that hard to transcend ... Five, 10, 15 minutes passedbefore I began to get discouraged. There was no way I could transcend when I hadother papers, homework assignments and due-dates seeping into my mind. How couldI concentrate on this when it wasn't due until May? I had too many deadlines andother commitments; I couldn't possibly waste my time down by this creek. My busyschedule took priority. I impatiently jotted down some thoughts about snow, tooka quick picture and started hiking up the hill.
The next few visits wentexactly the same way. I would force myself to go on the last day of the month,struggle to calm down, think about nature and then quickly head home. Thisproject seemed like a burden; I wasn't enjoying myself.
Another week ofsnow and winter bleakness came, and I decided to try out my nature spot when Iwasn't pressed for time. It was the middle of the month, and I surprised myselfby even considering to go.
The same routine happened; I was bored, so Istarted writing down how I felt. I discovered I had a lot to think about. Iwasn't just describing the footprints that disappeared into the creek, I wasmetaphorically relating them to what I saw in my own life. My stress was releasedwhen I touched pencil to paper, and I felt comfortable in the woods, like it wasa part of me. It didn't matter what I wrote - I was writing for myself andappreciating this time alone, away from my hectic life. I was in a place where noone could disturb me.
I knew myself pretty well, but often lost sight ofwho I was when I got caught up in my schedule. In the woods, I could forget abouteverything but myself. I saw the big picture, I delved far beyond what I couldthink of in the classroom or at home. Some of these things I transferred topaper, others, I kept to myself.
The sun was low in the sky, and I amazedmyself by avoiding my watch. I would have stayed even longer, but the thick snowwas numbing my toes. I headed up the hill, sorry to leave, but wondering when Icould set aside time to come again.
With every month came deeperreflections. I looked forward to the time I could spend time with myself becausewithout it, I would get lost in the whirlpool of school, friends and sports. Iwould lose the part of myself that kept me an individual. This burden of anassignment that I thought would only hold me back had actually pushed me forward.I had known that life is full of stress, but I learned I had to look beyond thoseworries and reach into myself to find peace. I thought a lot about God and myfamily, and straightened out my list of priorities.
I can see the changesin myself when I read the journals again, my maturity growing with my words. Ihave learned how to relax in times of stress because I now know what is trulyimportant to me. It wasn't enough just to be at the creek, I had to take anotherstep and transcend my everyday thoughts.
I see myself in a slightlydifferent light. I see a young woman who knows herself better than anyone else,who is willing to reach into herself and who owes herself time alone once in awhile. I am taking my advice to college, where I know my life will be filled withactivities, deadlines and stress. This class assignment was not only a journeythrough the seasons, it was a journey into myself.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.