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30 March 2010

A Point in Time

Ten years from now, I could be anywhere. I could have any job. I could live any life. I could be anything. Ten years ago, however, I was in Columbus, Ohio. I was a little girl. I had my first kiss. I went horseback riding for the first time. I had my first lemonade stand. I did a lot of things for the first time, at the age of ten, which are now ordinary rituals in my life. There are days when I wonder what will happen in the next ten years. Where will I go?

Well, yesterday, I decided to go somewhere. I grabbed my keys, and headed out the door. I went down the stairs, through the back door, and out into the parking lot. My seats felt hot to the touch as I climbed into the driver's seat. I pulled the piece of fabric over my chest. It still amazed me that my seat's "belt" holds the ability to save my life. I kept going through precautious procedures. I then adjusted my rearview mirror by half an inch. One last deep breath, and I was off. I spun the volume knob with great force, as my music blared through the openings of my windows. I whipped around the corner without looking back. I did not even need to adjust my mirror. I didn't even want to look back. I had already passed the parking lot. It was too late now.

I pulled my car up to the curb right outside my friend's house. I watched the clock teasingly change from one minute to the next. Finally, she opened the door and quickly sat down. She gave a quick smile, and with that ordinary motion, we were off. The maximum volume set the maximum pace as I sped down the freeway. My music was shouting, and my car was speeding. While inside the car, my friend drew a match steadily along the side of her red matchbox. The match reached higher into the air with one long armed flame. The flame grabbed the end of her cigarette. Her cheeks caved-in as her mouth pulled at the filter. Her nostrils slightly flared as smoke emerged from her nose and mouth simultaneously. The straight line of whitened air blew out the tired flame. The match suffered dark burns. Its days were done, and it was tossed out the window. The wind pushed it back into the past, right behind my fleeing car.

My friend took a drag at every few beats of the music. The smoke swirled and swayed inside the car before departing our dance party. We bopped and moved our bodies as smoothly as possible within my restricting vehicle. Everything felt so natural as we finally pulled up to the creek. I turned down the tunes, and my friend flicked away the remains of her cigarette. The butt sizzled out as one line of smoke streamed into the atmosphere. Finally, it was out, and there was no more movement outside my car. I took another deep breath, returned the former smile back to my friend, opened the car door, and stepped into the future.

We left all are belongings in the front seats. We pealed off all our clothes, except for our old swimsuits. Then I locked my car, and the beeping noise echoed into the unknown. I stuck my keys on top of my front wheel, even though I knew there was not a human in a radius of fifty miles. We were safe in that matter. We took about twenty steps to the edge of the rock formation. Do I dare look back? Well, I did. I looked back at my small car. I thought of the small chance that I might never see it again. I looked at my friend, Emily, and I wondered if I would ever see her again. Would we ever look back and remember this moment? Would we think of how stupid we were? Would we wonder what we were thinking?

I wasn't thinking. I was tired of wondering what would happen. I was tired of thinking about where I would be in life, after this. It was time to start living now. I grabbed Emily's hand. We mutually squeezed each other's nervous fingers. We took three running steps. Then we jumped. We fell. Well, I think we flew. The air felt differently than it did rushing into my car windows. The smell of the outside world was stronger than Emily's cigarette. I inhaled the freedom straight into my lungs. Our arms reached up into the sky. My hair flew up above my head resembling a flame. I never wanted to be put out.

As our flying bodies neared the creek I closed my eyes. A fifteen-story fall later, and I broke the seal of the water. My adrenaline rush was put out, and I left one streaming path in the sky. I opened my eyes back up. I tossed in the wake in search of Emily. The body of water was hugging me tight. I pushed away un-lovingly. I screamed for Emily.

Then I stopped. There was that smile. She passed it back to me. Then I returned the smile one more time. We broke into laughter. It echoed louder than a car horn.
Emily and I were not wise. Emily and I did not think about what would happen in the next ten years, or even the next ten minutes. Emily and I, however, were best friends. Emily and I loved life. Emily and I thought about the now. Emily and I did not know where we would be in the future, but we knew our past, and we decided what was in our now.

Everyday, I ask myself if the choices I make are wise. Everyday, I wonder what wisdom really is. Then I think to myself, I do not really care what is wise. I do not want to be stupid, or ungrateful, or inconsiderate, but I do not care if I am wise. Maybe I can be smart, or adventurous, or nice, but not completely wise. Overall, I just want to be happy. If happiness includes wisdom than I will buy it. However, I will not break my happiness for wisdom, therefore I do not have to buy it. I am happy when I jump, and never look back.

April 14, 2010

Dear Amanda,

I hope one of your life passions is writing, because you are so incredibly good at it. I picture exciting novels with AMANDA BARTLING in big letters on the cover, and between those covers riveting tales of adventurous living - your personal adventures or those of your characters.

Thank you so much for your story of vitality, engagement with life, and adventure. I was carried back to the time when I was 12, visiting my cousins in California. We were spending the day at this Olympic-sized pool. I'd gone off the low board, and then the higher board. Finally, I stood on the 10 meter platform, terrified, but determined to jump. Jump I did, and a piddling 3-stories down I entered the water and bobbed up unscathed. One fear conquered. But fifteen stories? That's something else again!

Regarding you closing comments, a few thoughts. We don't have to seek wisdom intentionally, or even "buy" the concept. As I see it, gratitude, consideration, happiness, adventurousness, and the ability to face and transcend fears are all concomitants of wisdom. Clearly, you are already a long way from the stupid/clueless/foolish end of the wisdom spectrum, and I have no doubt that you will grow further in wisdom whether you intend to or not. YES to your adventurousness! I have an online bio. It ends with this: If any dictum has been central to Cop's life, it has been Goethe's advice to "go and dare before you die." Go it Amanda!

All the best,