Home: The Best Place to Feel Awful
July, Age 16
The glossy water sways like liquid silk across an iridescent horizon. It’s only 9 a.m. and a temperate breeze flows off the Long Island Sound. Watercolors paint the sky in robin egg blue and white wisps of vapor clouds. It’s the summer before my junior year of high school, and my pulse is rushing from a morning jog. I wipe away the sweat from my brow, already dreading tomorrow’s run. I’ve always been a terrible runner. If it wasn’t for the impending volleyball season, I wouldn’t bother. Honestly, I feel a tinge of bitterness towards Mother Nature for skipping over me when handing out the running gene. My annoyance is fleeting, though. I’m consoled by the brisk water as I plunge into the sound and float in the gentle waves. I stand up and make my way to the sandbar, dragging my fingertips across the glassy surface. After a moment of tranquility, my thoughts are sent askew by another turbulent current. For the first time in my young life, I’ve been experiencing serious anxiety.
Home is the best place to be miserable. It’s where you feel most comfortable being vulnerable and honest. So, even though I’m exhausted, and my face is presumably the color of an overripe tomato, I’m strangely comfortable in my discomfort. Sneakers in hand, I walk back to our cottage, my calloused summer feet withstanding the jagged gravel road. With a messy bun on top of my head, I’m slightly concerned that an osprey might confuse my hair for a hospitable nest. The saltwater has been absorbed into my skin by the sticky, humid air. At home, I look in the closet and pick clothes from my relaxed summer attire. Gone are the frills of fall to spring fashion, replaced by oversized t-shirts, shorts, and flowy sundresses. I look in the mirror and recognize myself for the first time in months. My hair is up, there is no trace of makeup on my face and my skin is finally tan after months of looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Excerpt from the Diary of an Autumn Oak Tree
I have sunk into a patch of highly manicured terrain and am leisurely suffocating from the anthropogenic air. Dwelling around me is a plethora of frosty elements, embellishing my dull brittle bark with glimmering crystals. My rough skin serves as a protective barrier against the penetration of snow, sleet, and ice. However, my natural body struggles to contend with the manmade chunks of machinery that constantly zip past me. Thoughtlessly, they disrupt my meditative state and emit harmful fumes into the atmosphere. My roots confine me to a sedentary lifestyle and force me to remain in a perpetual state of observation. Watching from my post, I often notice a universal look of introspection in the eyes of faculty and students. Today, I watch as they scurry past me in a fray of rosy cheeks and frostbitten noses. Their potent anxiety strikes the air, evaporating the peaceful aura of this calm autumn morning. Like armor, I’m wrapped in thick, rough bark from my roots to the ends of my branches. My body is embedded with long vertical scars and islands of mossy refuge. The nooks and indentations along my trunk serve as places of reprieve for tiny woodland creatures. My branches are piers for vigilant birds and watch posts for protective avian mothers. And while all this life scurries around me in a frenzy, my own permanence swells. Unable to run for cover, I drown in the downpour of rain, crystallize in the wake of a blizzard, and split apart during hurricanes. However, the constant turbulence is not without reprieve, and the sunshine feels particularly warm when it’s drying up my leaves after a vicious storm. Lying at my base are twigs and branches that have fallen from my adapting body. I’m constantly losing and regaining pieces of myself to fit the mold of each passing season. Throughout autumn, my vibrant leaves are shed, leaving behind a skeleton held down by inviolable roots. As days become years, my roots stretch out farther and farther into the depths of the soil. Ropes of pliant, vascular tissue pull me towards the Earth’s core. Thus, the unassailable parts of my being remain unobservable to any above-ground onlooker.