It was the last days of May- I laid, alone on my bed staring up at the white ceiling. I studied it like a blank canvas, hoping that if I stared at it long enough, maybe, just maybe, all of the “what ifs” and unknowns would suddenly arrange themselves in a clear answer right before my own eyes. My body sunk into the mattress with the weight of 16 years of life experiences. Tears stung the rim of my bloodshot eyes and my fists balled up into a tangled mesh of frustration, nails digging into my palms until i felt punctured skin. I reached over for my phone but the crash of realization that there was no one for me to reach out to anymore slapped me across the face. I sat up and hugged my knees to my chest. Perhaps if I squeezed hard enough, my body would collapse unto itself and spiral into a state of oblivion. I was alone. I needed to do this alone.
It was mid June- solitude felt foreign and suffocating. Books consumed my entity, swallowed me up whole and transported me to a better life. They were my portal to millions of lives I could slip into and lose myself in fictional characters. The pages gave me friendship. The pages gave me love. The pages gave me a sense of belonging that I cherished more than ever.
Lightning flashed across the sky as I sat on my porch. Rain pelted the cement like bullets, each one stronger than the last. I took one step, then another. Step by step I walked out into the storm. I looked up and felt each burst of water erupt on my face. Thunder cracked and growled all around me and shook the earth beneath my bare feet. When the chill of the rainfall made my teeth begin to chatter, I made my way back inside. Back to my cocoon of seclusion.
It felt as if the calendar flipped but nothing else changed. Everyday identical to the last, dull and lonely. My heart ached for a silver lining but it was almost as if the clouds in my sky were hidden behind thick smoke.
It was July- I needed to get out. I packed my backpack with a book, leather bound journal, pen, water, and hope. I flew out the door, breaking free of the restraints of my built up desolation. I had no destination, no plan, just to get away. I put in headphones and drowned out the echos of forsaken accompaniment. As the revolutions of my bike tires flew upward to infinite, I felt a current of blithe pass through my veins. I turned down a lonesome street and was compelled to an opening in the trees. A rotting wooden sign was the only indication that anyone had been here before. The gravel beneath my beat up sneakers crunched and slid with every tentative step. The earth suddenly sloped downward and I had to crouch to stop myself from sliding down the terrain. At the end, there was a beach of large, flat rocks arrayed hypnotically before the river. It was beautiful. I ran my fingers over the curves on the rocks and found a corner to make camp. I sat down and pulled out my book, feeling a twinge of something worthwhile. I don’t know how long i sat there, lost in an inked world, before I got the idea. There was a stretch of land a few feet off from the shore, an island of sorts. I stood up and scoured the shore in search of a path that could lead me to the island. No luck. Far out to the right, I noticed some large rocks jutting upward through the river. I immediately got to work. Picking up the largest, flattest rocks I could manage, I arranged them in the river in a long path so that they came up through the current. Luckily, this part of the river was shallow so it did not take very long before I had myself a bridge. I wasted no time in teetering my way across the makeshift bridge. My shoes got soaked and muddy but i made it. I was on the island. It wasn’t very large, maybe 20 feet in every direction, but it was all mine. Just like on the mainland, there was a shore of rocks before mother nature devoured the rest. A thick tree had uprooted and fallen on its side. I climbed it and stood on the top, overlooking the entire river. A cool breeze in the summer air kissed my body as I stood at the edge of sanity. Up here, I felt empowered. Here in this locus only I knew, I felt like everything might actually be okay.
It was the tail end of August- I hiked past the railroad tracks behind my house and into the woods. I walked, ran, until my lungs bursted in protest. I came to an opening in the trees. The trees parted in almost a perfect circle, creating a beautiful skylight above my head. Headphones in, I danced. I jumped and twirled and chasséd without a care in the world. I said hello to the pine needles, welcomed the sweet sap oozing out of the tree trunks. With every movement of my body, I released pent up frustration and heartbreak. I was smiling from ear to ear, letting my body take me away. When the last strum of the guitar reverberated through my bones, I took out my headphones and collapsed onto the hard ground. My fingers intertwined with roots, dirt, and grass. Gravity was pulling me down, but I felt light. I felt capable and free. I looked out through the tops of the trees and felt sunlight beam onto my face, warming me to my core. I could hear the subtle rustle of leaves as the breeze swept through the branches. I breathed in fresh air and let it cleanse my soul into a new beginning. The birds chirped and flapped their wings to the rhythm of my heart beat, reminding me that life continues even when people leave. Lying there, alone and content, I came to the utter realization that happiness is not a who or a what, it’s a choice and a feeling. And in that very moment, I chose it. I chose it with open arms and an eager heart. Ipseity invaded every part of me.