Written by Miriam Samuel. Edited by Shreya Saha and Lasya Ramakrishnan.
Artwork by Lily Lee.
One day, I woke up.
I stared at the ceiling and listened to the noise from the streets below– the rush of cars, the occasional honk, the slight pitter-patter of rain on my window. It was time to get out of bed, get clean, and start the day.
It was time to go to work. I didn’t bother to look outside the window; I knew exactly what it looked like. Drab and grey. Slow and dark. Monotonous and heavy.
I went to work. I walked into the building, whose frame towered over me, scanned my ID, and made my way to the elevator. The elevator was transparent, and I could look outside and see the ground grow farther and farther away from my feet.
I saw birds fly by and the clouds grow closer. They were low and angry.
I looked up and closed my eyes. I wished that the elevator could keep going until it burst out of the building, like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I wanted the elevator to take me far away, somewhere the sun is always shining. But alas, it stopped on the 13th floor, as it always did. I walked the same 17 steps to my cubicle as I did every day and sank into my chair.
I turned on my desktop and got to work. The only thought that plagued my mind was I don’t want to do this anymore.
Those words were still ringing in my head until I got home. This what? What did I not want to do any longer?
Everything, absolutely everything, and nothing at the same time.
As I made a cup of coffee, I leaned against the counter and asked myself “What am I doing? I’m not happy, I’m not the least bit content, so why am I working a job I hate in a place where I don’t want to be, living a life so repetitive and mundane?”
I don’t know. I never found out. All I was certain is that the decisions I made brought me there, and I didn’t know how to get out. I didn’t stand for anything. I didn’t know anything about the world. My perspective was akin to a spooked ostrich, head buried below the ground, omitting all but my own thoughts. I was ignorant about the world around me. The people that have suffered, crushed under the weight of reality in ways I could never relate to. I was too caught up in my penny-pinching, boring lifestyle to bring myself to care about anyone else but me. And I was miserable, very miserable. I had no interests, no passions, no goals. I just lived life and dealt with everything as they came my way, hoping they would never come in the first place. Here I was, a 20-something ‘adult’ with absolutely nothing in my life that I was proud of — not because I had done bad things, but because I had literally done nothing to be proud of.
But I had to start somewhere. I dropped everything, quit my job, collected the savings I had, and took to the road. This was all done in search of something— anything that would satiate the growing urge to expand my world. I got out of the grey city, and, for the first time, I could breathe. Quite literally actually, the smog in the city was definitely suffocating. As I sped by trees and fields, I thought about the way I lived my life. The way I woke up to rain every day and marched into the huge grey building with heavy steps and wished the elevator would break free of its tight, metal constraints and shoot out into the sky.
I was on the road for what felt like years. I pushed myself to learn new skills. I had started to gain a new perspective on life. I learnt how to make butter from an Amish family in the countryside. I learnt that the milk industry is horrible for the Earth courtesy of an environmental activist in a small town up North. I listened to the news, educated myself on politics, social issues, global news, every type of news I could get my hands on.
An old lady from the room next door at the motel I stayed at taught me how to knit. She asked me, “what are you doing?” with a curious gaze, her white hair shining in the sun that passed through the window, her bespectacled face, worn down from the years, still sparkling as though she were my age.
“Everything, I’m doing everything. I want to live my life to the fullest, and I spent too much time living a life that didn’t amount to anything. It might be too late, but I just have to try.” I answered, breathless but proud of myself for saying that out loud. She looked at me for a few more seconds, her eyes boring right through my soul. She took a small breath and smiled, accentuating her crow’s feet.
“It’s never too late to change, sweetheart.” She turned away from me and faced the sun. “We’re all going to die anyway, so might as well do what we can to make the little time we have left worthwhile, right?” She finished, returning her gaze to me.
I squared my shoulders and smiled the biggest smile I had ever smiled.
Today, I woke up.
I woke up and stared at the ceiling. I could hear the birds chirping happily, the occasional quack from the ducks in the pond nearby, and the slight rush of leaves from the gentle breeze.
It was time to get out of bed, get clean, and start the day. It was time to go to work. I looked outside the window and was met with a beautiful blue sky and I smiled so hard my cheeks started to ache. The sky never looked the same, and I didn’t either.
Evolved and happy. Bright and sunny. Ever-changing and ready.