I awake to the muffled bird chirps and morning light streaming in between the window slats. I roll around and find a comfortable position, then spend a few moments enjoying the quiet. When I get out of the bed, my body is sore. I can definitely feel the effects of two workout days in a row. I stretch a little and make the bed, then tidy the room a bit. I brush my teeth and wash my face with warm water from the tap. Now it is time to start breakfast.
I find the small pot that is used primarily for boiling water, and fill it just enough for one full cup of coffee. While the water boils I go to check the mail, but the box is empty. I was really hoping to find something there. I come back inside and measure out four scoops of coarse-ground organic coffee into the french press. The now boiling water goes in next, and I set a timer for four minutes. Now I can start cooking the eggs. Crack! There is one. Crack! And another. Only one stays intact through this process. I use a nearby fork to scramble the eggs. I cut a sliver of butter from the stick and drop it into the pan. While it quickly melts, I pour in the eggs.
The coffee is ready. I stir the mixture with the handle of a wooden spoon and place the lid on the french press. I slowly push down, trapping the coffee grinds at the bottom, then fill my zebra-striped mug to the brim with the dark, aromatic liquid. A couple flips of the eggs later, and breakfast is almost ready. I grab an organic Valencia orange, and with the three breakfast items teetering in my arms, I walk into the living room and sit down.
Peeling the orange releases the sweet smell of citrus. Natural light floods into the room, and those birds are still chirping in the background. Swirls of steam rise from my black coffee, and the slightly salty taste of the eggs complements the natural sugar from the orange. I realize that all of my senses are engaged, and I smile at the thought of being alive. With a morning like this, the day is sure to be fair and sweet.
The wonderful thing about being alive is the ability to make choices. Every sentient being on this great planet can carve out a path for his or herself and is constantly at liberty to change direction. The only stipulation is that once a particular road has been chosen, diverting from it can carry sweeping consequences. I am fortunate because of my age and my relative anonymity; there is still ample time to choose from a host of roads at my disposal. Even those that seem unattainable from my current position could fall within my reach if I put forth the required effort. This is true freedom.
It is not the ability to acquire large sums of money, or to own more than one could ever realistically need in a thousand lifetimes. It is the ability to be the person that each of us would like to be. Many people would rather die in silence and modesty than to risk utter failure in the pursuit of dreams. Those people are ungrateful. They are lost in their own doubts and cannot produce a string of meaningful thoughts long enough to reveal the limited nature of life. Every moment, every choice to oversleep or overeat or wallow in self-perpetuating misery, is a waste of precious time. I know this because most of my moments before this one were characterized by a lack of appreciation. The occasional reflection on myself and the possibilities of life is not adequate. There needs to be a daily thirst for progress. This does not imply a need for material wealth. It is simply the deeply-felt need to be something, to create something meaningful out of our circumstances.
Our creation may be beautiful or grotesque. As long as it is a representation of something within us, we have not failed. Conventional art is only one channel of many. Words and colors and tastes and sounds are the vitality for some. Comedic misanthropy is just as meaningful as altruism. The shades of life well lived are diverse and yet always complementary. This is why we must choose a path to follow. To contribute to a great mosaic of convictions and temperaments is to have a purpose. Finding a stylistic voice is half the battle but only a fraction of the thrill.
I cannot honestly say how I could possibly know these things to be true because I know neither the sound of my own voice or the quality of my soul. I often live in doubt and wonder if I will ever ascertain any general idea of what this life is all about, but every once in a while something incredible happens. I pull a series of words out of somewhere unknown and slap them onto a piece of paper in some journal I will never fill, and I feel as though I am somehow closer to finding the purpose of my relatively infinitesimal life. By questioning and ruminating and scratching out a few (often unsound) phrases, I push the limits of my otherwise stuffy, monotonous days. Writing is unlikely to ever pay my bills. It will probably bring me neither recognition nor prestige. The only thing writing has done for me is to afford fleeting respite, and ever-expanding clarity. Life stimulates us; it pushes us into pursuit of our individual passion.
Why should I, or any one of us, refuse to accept such a generosity?
It’s quiet. I’ve gone so far that all I can hear is the wind in the trees and the buzzing of wings all around me. I’m walking in circles and now I can’t remember which direction is home. It doesn’t matter; I won’t be going back. I sit in the grass up against a tall, thick tree and I gratefully take a few sips of water. The shade affords some respite from the heat but my legs are tired and heavy. Still, I am content to stay here a while and just breathe. I notice a couple of bees playing nearby and I wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to have such short, simple lives. I’ll bet a bee never felt the need to run away. I can sense the wind starting to cool as the sun falls and at once I feel the weight of my eyelids. Placing my backpack behind my head in the most comfortable position possible, I let my body drift into light sleep.
Foreign sounds wake me from nonsensical dreams. It takes me a moment to remember where I am, although saying that I can place my location would be untruthful. My eyes adjust to the darkness and I decide to walk a little farther. I am not used to the rough terrain and the lack of daylight makes for slow progress. I should probably stay where I am but my mind is too restless for sleep and my legs are itching to keep moving. My ears pick up on the sound of running water and I am surprised to find that trusting my instinct is more fruitful that I would have guessed. I follow the sound and come upon a shallow spring. I begin undressing but hesitate; I am not accustomed to such freedom. Recalling that there is no one around, I strip down to nothing but my bare skin and slowly dip my aching body into the cool water. It feels better than any hot shower I’ve ever had. I lay on my back and float for a while, gazing up at the tree canopy above me. My eyes trail off to glance at my naked body and a laugh escapes my lips. The sound seems far away and unnatural. I’ve been gone less than twenty-four hours and already my sense of normal has changed. My eyes relax again and I stand in the water looking around for signs of movement. Somewhere nearby I hear a scampering of small, quick feet through the leaves. For a moment I am sad to think about the beloved cat I left behind. He would be fine of course, with regular feedings and affection from others, but I wondered if he’d miss me at all. For so long he was my only confidant, and I felt a twinge of loneliness without him. I couldn’t have brought him along if I’d wanted. He was domesticated and becoming quite fat, and would never have been disciplined enough to stay by my side. I remembered that loving something sometimes meant leaving it be, and realized that he was much better off at home.
Out of the water, I had slight chills but decided to remain unclothed for a while longer. How liberating it was to be free from anyone’s judgment! Remembering that I am still alive and will have needs to attend to in the coming days, I laid out my sleeping bag and allowed my mind to still so that I could get needed rest. When I awake at daylight, I will eat and move forward, intending to make it as far as I can before night falls again. I am not sure where I am going, or where I will arrive, but if the journey takes my life I will be content to know that at least I did not die a slave to my circumstances.