Graphic created by Evan Brooks using Wix.
Maybe it was because I was naive, or possibly because I felt down on my luck, but I felt like I needed to get away from home. I had an intense urge to leave town to be alone for a while, maybe find a trail and follow it. I never knew it would lead me to my own salvation.
About a year ago now, I experienced a horrible breakup. I believed that one day we would actually get married, but those kinds of dreams tend to remain dreams, especially when you are the only one dreaming in the relationship. Needless to say, I needed to get away from them, and in that, I needed to get away from the town they were in.
So, I started off on a well-defined road out of town and into the surrounding woods. After about an hour of walking, there came a crossroads, or at least what was left of one. On the right, the well-defined road turned into a well-traveled path. On the left, only a trail, except this trail was more like a suggestion of one. It was more akin to a thin, skewing patch that plants refused to grow on, rather than anything anyone ever set foot down on. Because my heart was still broken and I wanted to get away from society as much as possible during that time, I went left.
It wasn’t long before the trail became steeper, the foliage more sparse, and jagged stone replaced soft dirt. It felt like I was climbing a mountain, and I was. As the air thinned and chilled, the trail began to open up then disappear altogether. Where a trail would have been was covered by a gentle layer of snow, and ahead, the top of the mountain could be seen. Just before the top stood a small shack — too small to be called a house, yet big enough to be called a home.
From it, a chimney spouting weak smoke could be seen, and an old man sitting on what could be mistaken for a porch. As I approached him, I could see the home had seen better days, and the old man even more so. Being upon him, he sat silent, and I stood observing. I could see the wisdom in his faint blue eyes, fed by the pain of experience.
I said nothing as he tilted his head in my direction.
He spoke simply: “Many will cross our paths, some will stay longer than others, but all will leave in the end.”
I was shaken, yet my heart stopped aching. He knew what I had been through, but I had no idea how. I was a statue as he turned his head away. I then quickly left back for the town.
A few weeks later, I found myself feeling poor on how I look, on what I had accomplished so far. I kept seeing everyone else in the streets, so successful, so unafraid to be themselves. I thought for a moment, then knew I had to see the old man again. Two hours later, I reached his home and, sure enough, he was sitting out front.
I came as close to him as I had before and waited.
He turned his worn face towards me and spoke sharply. “We are not other people, just as other people are not us.”
I listened intently, not questioning how he could know my inner struggles. He turned away, and I went back to town feeling surer of myself, no longer looking at others’ successes, but rather, working on my own. It felt like no more than a week had passed before I wanted to go see the old man again, to learn more of his wisdom, so I could become a better person. I left town to go back to the top of his mountain again, and before long I had arrived once more.
I saw his home, but he was nowhere to be seen. The weak smoke from the chimney was gone, and I worried. Upon approaching the wood structure for what would be my last time, I noticed the shambles of a door was cracked open. I shuffled inside to see him lying on his dusty bed. I came close to him, and without opening his eyes, his lips moved for the last time.
“I am still learning.”
Evan Brooks is a third-year Business Management major with minors in Economics and Civil and Professional Leadership. EB916132@wcupa.edu