April 3, 2017
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Across the ocean and a night sky away from Michigan, a man named Kamal resides in a small French village. The Lebanese man hosting six American girls, myself included, had a wife stuck in Ukraine, six daughters, three llamas, a cage of birds and bunnies, a pool of koi fish, and a room of bengal cats all admiring the children’s book he wrote and listening to him speak four languages. A person with such an engrossing life needs a catharsis, and Kamal stargazed.

The darkening sky intensified but did not tire my active mind. The five other Americans, Kamal, and I lay on a blue, tattered blanket scattered with cat hair. The blanket, big enough so that each head could rest comfortably, allowed our legs that carried us through winding European paths and cramped during eight hour bus rides for the past month to unwind on the driveway’s rough, rocky pavement.
Kamal pointed out various constellations, but I could only visualize the independent celestial bodies even with the knowledge aficionado’s guidance. Why can't I see the bigger picture? I pondered. Why can I gaze at each individually twinkling star and wonder if it has a name and what it is, but I struggle making them fit into Orion, Taurus, or Pegasus? I convinced myself that the other five Americans and probably even the stray cat loitering around the blanket could see what I could not, and that made me ignorant.

Startling me and shaking me awake from thoughts of my self-proclaimed ignorance, everybody expressed his or her admiration for the sudden light that fell amongst its twinkling peers. Another missed extravaganza! I decided to watch the twinkling sky until my dark eyes could see a bright shooting star; unfortunately, humans only have two eyes. While I focused on a mere fraction of the sky, determined to see a shooting star for myself and regarding it as more of a chore than a blessing, the six people whose heads mine nearly touched on the old blanket gasped and pointed away from my line of vision, appreciating another shooting star. Disappointed in my lack of astronomical knowledge and luck, I concluded my mission to see one for myself.

For a moment, the shooting stars either ceased to appear or went unnoticed by the small group of people. Our own little world fell silent just as suddenly as the stars fell a minute before, and we watched. I never asked, but after over four months later, I still wonder what my fellow Americans were thinking about. If I asked them now, would they even remember? I remember. I thought about the sun radiating onto my family across the Atlantic Ocean at the very moment that the moon glowed onto the palms of my hands, reaching to grasp a lonely star. I pictured an image from my childhood and whether it was a dream or a movie or a minute television short, I'm not sure, but I saw a character with a paperlike, handcrafted body, clutching a ladder and preparing to climb it so he could fetch the moon for his dear child. The image makes me question what exists and what does not, but my previous question of why I could not see the bigger picture became lucid when the stars fell and entered through my eyes and flowed throughout my body as fiery, passionate blood drifts through the veins, filling my stomach’s hunger, releasing my scoliotic spine’s tension. How infiltrating the galaxy is, my mind understands how infiltrating.

I couldn't see the constellations or the shooting stars because I excessively searched for them. I looked at each star and wondered its story, which is not bad. However, I wanted to see the constellations so desperately that my thoughts of ostensible ignorance clouded the constellations I could have enjoyed. Intently scanning the sky for shooting stars, I missed the marvel happening just outside my horizon. If only I had simply expanded my outlook, laid back and waited for the universe’s natural wonders to unfold, I would not have the self-imposed stress that I felt until the moment where nobody uttered a word and allowed nature to speak. Humans often desire an expeditious solution where they can take control, but life rarely functions that way. Instead, we must learn to feel content with situations we cannot change and stop battling reality.

After my brief transcendence where the stars filled my internal void, I saw shooting stars flying through the sky, one after another. I exhaled and gazed at the constellations Kamal pointed out, the moon accentuating patterns I could now see. We always have the choice to relinquish existential, quixotic control and gain internal serenity. So that’s what I choose. I choose joy. And I will create my own beautiful existence.

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