I did it. I ran away from my family. They don't understand me. It’s been an hour now and my knees are tired. I fall on the grass and lay there for a few minutes to rest. I look ahead and watch the town from afar. Then, I look back and see the forest. Nighttime is quickly approaching. I'm lost and confused.
The forest in front of me is dark and quiet. There is something that scares me about silence – the stillness and the unknown make me feel uneasy. I keep falling deep into my thoughts. They say that I make too many mistakes, that I need to play it safe, that I'm the black sheep of the family. Maybe they're right, I don't know. I stand still for a few minutes until I muster the courage to enter the woods.
The ancient trees have creaking branches, the soil covered in their shed bark. The twigs crunching under my feet prompt me to walk as quietly as possible; I don’t want to wake the sleeping souls of the woods. The forest might once have been filled with bird-song, but its former glory is long gone. Squirrels run past me, not bothered by the silence. I don’t know whether they’re looking for food or just playing. Squirrels always seem playful to me.
The cream colored flowers on the eucalyptus tree in front of me yield a strong honey scent. It almost feels like I'm safe, like I have nothing to worry about. I take a deep breath of the clean and cool forest air. The breeze gives a gentle nudge to the green leaves. I hear it whispering to me.
Come, don't be afraid. If you want freedom, you must gain wisdom.
The stars emerge from their hiding place as night approaches, sprinkling the sky like lucid snowflakes of silver. They are so bright that I don't need a light; it's almost as if they’re illuminating my steps. The forest beckons me into its pulsing heart, the deep, haunting ballad of its ancient song calling to me. How could I resist such a pull?
I keep walking the trail, constantly fighting my fear of the dark and unknown. One side of me says, “Isn’t it better to be home all cozy and safe than to foolishly walk in a strange and dangerous place? Have you lost your common sense?”
I keep walking and the other side of me says, “Oh, leave me alone. I need to figure things out. I am an individual.
The world doesn’t understand me and it won’t accept the real me. It’s better to embrace the unknown than to wear a mask. I keep trying to please those around me and what has that gotten me? Only suffering!
I can’t take my parents constantly fighting. Is it so wrong that I want a normal childhood?” This somehow gives me a flow of energy through my body and I keep walking. What am I hoping to find? I don’t know. Maybe I should go back.
Right when I am about to head back home, I see fire and immediately duck behind bushes.
Women wearing long white dresses dance around the flames. All of them have dark hair reaching past their shoulders, a warm smile on every woman’s face. I walk towards them and introduce myself. They tell me that their husbands are inside their huts with the children, and that tonight is their ceremony to the stars. The women say that they believe in giving back to nature, so once a week they gather to honor life.
One of the women, named Daisy, after the flower, asks why I am walking alone in the forest. I hesitate to answer - I want them to see me as a nice person, but I’m a runaway. I can't bring myself to tell them about my reasons for being in the forest. I am asked to join them in their celebration; I even receive a white dress like theirs. I ask about their family and Daisy replies:
"We go through life wondering who we are, and what our purpose is. We look for external values to give us an understanding of our true self. A family can only become one when we have our hearts open. Even if only one person in the family has their heart open, that is enough to make this union strong. No one is perfect, but we love them anyway. Life is not one-sided; it brings you both pleasure and worry. If you only seek one of those two, you will not live with joy - instead, you will be riding the waves of life with pain."
Daisy looks at me with loving eyes, expecting that her answer was enough to make me happy.
“I understand. What should I do to preserve my true self and not wear a mask? I feel like my family wants me to be a ‘good girl,’ someone who is quiet and gets As.” I ask.
Daisy, pausing, for a minute, looks at the other women and then directs her gaze back at me. She takes a deep breath and smiles.
“I can only speak of my experience. You have to create your life as if you are the painter of your masterpiece. Life is the canvas and you have to acquire the colors to paint on it.”
“Can I stay with you?” I asked. “I’d like to learn how to be the artist of my life and paint a masterpiece. You seem to be happy here. You are so wise and loving.”
Daisy proceeds to answer me in a sweet tone, “Darling, we all have our purpose in life. Some of us go through life searching for something big when all along we only had to express our true selves. Self-expression is our purpose. If you stay with us, you won’t develop this. Maybe you are to deliver our message of love to your town. Go on, live life to the fullest. Don’t look back and don’t stay stuck. Become like the river; always flowing and light.”
Tears run down my cheeks. I need to leave. Daisy is right, I need to find my own tribe.
I ask her to guide me out of the forest. In response, she says, “No one escapes the forest, unless they have the key.” I ask where I can find such a key, and she says that it is by the creek. I hug the women and say my goodbyes.
“Follow the trail and you will find what you’re looking for,” Daisy yells in a sweet voice.
I’m back in the dark, facing the unknown again. The great thing about this forest is that I’ve only seen squirrels and no other animals. I follow a trail and hear water. I rush to the creek, but I find nothing, well except for water and rocks. Disillusioned, I fall to the ground, eyes closed.
Opening my eyes, I notice a bright light coming from above. I look around and see that I’m back in my bedroom, on my cozy twin bed. From somewhere beneath me, I hear noises. I get up, and head downstairs. My mother and father are arguing. In the past, I would assume that the argument was my fault; I would yell at them and cry. I realize that I am a new person now, because I did find the key by the creek after all. Instead of shouting, I hug my parents and tell them that I love them.
Dad says, “Go to your room, young lady, and stay there until breakfast is ready."
I follow his orders and wait until they call me for breakfast, which only takes about another hour, to tell them about my dream. I see sadness in their eyes as I finish telling them the story. I then tell them how their fighting is affecting me, and ask each of them to resolve their issues in a calmer manner because I do notice when they fight.
“I feel like it’s my fault when you guys fight. I feel out of control. I feel you want me to wear a mask.”
They hug me and tell me that they love me very much.
See, the key was with me all along - open communication, staying true to yourself, and loving without judging. Sometimes we are not aware of the power we hold inside waiting to be awakened.
Do I still want to be a runaway kid? No.
Life is much better when faced head on.
What did you think of this short story? Would you like to see more?
With Love, Dania