I’m running through a forest. It’s as clichéd as expected; muddy and unnerving. There are lots of twisted paths running parallel to me, spinning off frantically in all directions. I sense danger in front of me; a threatening presence. Subconsciously I panic. instinctively I take the path to my left, breathing hard. I hold my breath, letting gusts out in short, rapid shafts. I sing quietly under my breath, needing a rhythm until my heart finds its own once more. The signpost ahead is marked ‘EXIT’. I collapse against it gratefully, wondering how on earth I got here.
I remember taking the path marked ‘FUTURE’. I remember following it past ‘UNIVERSITY’ and slipping along ‘CAREER’. I remember worrying as I passed the ‘FAMILY’ turning that I may never return. Daft really, when everyone always knew I would.
I remember the alternates. I saw ‘TRAVEL’ and ‘MONEY’ and thought them unnecessary. Naively, I expected to see them to reappear. They never did.
I remember glancing behind me once. The arrow towards the ‘PAST’ was forever looming at my right shoulder. My regrets and past mistakes never once left me; they accumulated at my wrist, hanging as heavy as that irrevocable ‘ball and chain’, swinging as daintily as a charm bracelet in the wind.
I only retraced my steps once. I spent forever sitting at crossroads, determined to make The Right Decision. It was years before I realised there never was one.
I travelled alone. People may have stopped to ask me advice, or even in turn advised me. We may have joked, bickered, or even fought. But in the bleakest of hours, when the rain fell heavily and I was drowning in the clouds, I was always alone. There was no one to hold my hand, lift my hood, or even help me read the map. I was alone.
But maybe that was right. And as I sit at the ‘EXIT’, pondering my fate, I accept my consequences. I realise that though I may have been alone, all decisions have been my own. And that is important, because it means that all my regrets and supposed wrong choices have been my own. But were they really wrong? Because although they were nasty at the time, they led me to here. My ‘EXIT’.
I lay sprawled across the wet grass, revelling in the five vertex of my star-like stance. I send vibes along my knees, star bursting out of the base of my big toe. Sparks shoot from my fingertips. I am magic. I am me.
I stand up slowly, feeling the rush from the tip of my forehead to the twinkle at the end of my toes. I embrace myself and feeling corny, wrap my arms just that little bit tighter. I grin a crazy grin and hop animatedly across two feet.
I take a deep breath and go along singing, further along my ‘EXIT’ path, relieved it’s over, and proud to be alive. I drench myself in that clean air and cling desperately to the exuberance of life.
I see my best moments flash before my eyes as I always knew I would. I watch my graduation, my first love, my wedding, my children growing up and becoming real little people. I sing happily, with tears in my eyes as I realise that my journey, my path of choices, has made me the person I never dreamed of. I watch in amazement, as moments I never truly appreciated before appear more vivid than ever. I catch snapshots of looks, glimmers of glances between friends that mean more that friends, and hear slapdash quotes snake around my brain.
And I hear myself telling a stranger, whom I had met much earlier on my route, that it is ‘at the end of your life when you realise how important those decisions you made at the start were’. And I remember thinking that if I embraced that light still liking myself, still proud of the person I had become, my dreams would be answered.
And so as I collapse in a twirl, a dancer’s pose my last snapshot on Earth, I smile with glee, knowing that I have beaten my one true nemesis. Myself. And as I fade away on that lush green lawn, into the warmth of the sunshine, my dreams have been answered.