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  • Chris Decker, Contributing Writer

Appreciating Life

I sat at the kitchen counter, dazed and languid with the fading effects of last night’s sleep. The sun glittered through the east-facing windows, putting on a luminous display of disco that seemed to say wake up! Barren trees looked blue in the morning haze, with branches reaching up into the sky as if stretching the kinks that badgered their limbs during the night. This day already proved itself to be something different—the usual calamity that plagued our household receded in the light of the morning sun. I was grateful for the quiet. It gave me time to make some avocado toast without interrupting my mother’s sacred coffee ritual. I was reminded to show her an article about the dangers of caffeine, but I discarded the thought as I found myself unconsciously turning on the Keurig to brew my own cup. The machine whirred and sputtered until a steady stream was flowing. I hung the coffee over my nose for a second. The steam filled my orifices. I took a sip and was awake.

Classes had ended early and the approaching warm weather was alluring. I decided that today was meant to be spent outside. I rolled down the windows as I sped past my neighborhood. I didn’t have a destination in mind, but I soon found myself at an all-too-familiar spot.

Tucked away on an unassuming street in the heart of Oak Grove is a vacant lot of about four acres. Here, the grass glows golden under the shade of live oaks and the sun shines bright. An old teetering swing set sits despondent in one corner, yearning to satisfy the needs of a young child. This place is dubbed the Greenspace by locals. For me, it’s a place of innocence, of comfort, and of tranquility. Years ago, I used to frolic here on a summer day until I collapsed in a heap of laughter, probably at the prompting of my brother. For today, it served a different purpose: it was my escape.

I let the wind carry the blanket before I pinned it down. The dewy grass found itself between my fingers as I sprawled beyond the confines of the towel. Blue sky peeked through the leaves of the live oak. I shifted to my stomach and I was eye-level with the bugs. A rolly-polly made its way slowly across a heart-shaped leaf. A sign of love. I touched it and it retracted into a tight ball. I guess not. Turning over, I closed my eyes.

As of late, I had felt the impermanence of life. Every moment seemed to be tinged with a certain fraudulence. I often found myself frequently suffering from the effects of existentialist thinking—how could I not? Our generation was hardwired to think, worry, and plan for the future, but in light of recent events, our structured and planned lives came crashing down in one big, earth-shattering implosion. Yet we were expected to carry on, to keep going, to be the resilient kids that we are. But more often than not, I wondered if planning anymore was worth the time and energy. I applied to college, but my motivations for doing so were empty promises of fulfilling degrees and rewarding careers. I try to stray from this type of thinking, but worries of the future trickle into my mind even in the most hostile places, like my dreams.

I brushed away this negativity as I remembered the things that I did have. I have my family and friends. Sure, the future may be uncertain, but I have the closest and most understanding people to confide in about my worries. I also have knowledge, the ability to think and wonder about the world, the ability to recognize and assess negative thoughts. I have this simple day. I have love and joy. I have hope. These little things, though seemingly insignificant, hold a weight in my life that trumps any pessimism that finds its way in. I learned that I have everything.

My philosophical musings faded away as quickly as they came. A breeze picked up the edges of my blanket and carried away the last of my problems. Bugs chirped and scoured for morsels on bright green grass. Freckles darkened with every ray and minds eased with every breeze. I closed my eyes and felt what it was like to live. To be honest, I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Or the day after that. I was here and that was all that mattered.

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