“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anaïs Nin
One summer day, the child discovered she lived in a big, big world and promptly fell in love with it. Undaunted by its size, she started exploring her own backyard, and then her neighborhood. She ran her hands through leaves and trunks, smooth and rough alike, and pressed her nose close to various flowers. She caught butterflies and dragonflies and tried to understand how they flew, before setting them free again. She played on the streets with other kids, unmindful of the sun that burned her skin.
Later, on summer beach trips with her family, she stayed out until the waters wrinkled her skin and the sun baked her golden brown.
She devoured books and explored far-off lands where red rocks and soil burned bright at dusk, where trees grew gigantically it would take many of her tiny frame to hug one trunk, where waterfalls were so high their waters seemed to fall from the sky, and where people lived high in mountains or deep in caves, and spoke words strange yet beautiful to her ears.
Occasionally she would browse through maps of her country and of the world, and imagined what life was like in the places she had yet to see. She dreamed of going off on an adventure, much like the quests she saw in fantasy books and movies.
But as she grew up, her once bright and vivid dreams slowly dimmed, then completely faded. The books and atlases she used to devour lay somewhere in the house, forgotten and gathering dust. The dreams were replaced with rules, responsibilities, worries, and all the things she knew were expected of her, like pleasing her family and other people, getting good grades at school, and fitting in with other students. And, to avoid being teased and to please a boy she liked, she stopped basking in the sun and tried products to make her skin whiter.
Summer breaks, likewise, were not a carefree affair but about obligations, extra work, and thinking of other people’s concerns.
The summers felt even shorter when she started working. They were about long work hours, pleasing the boss, and figuring out the climb along the corporate ladder. Also looming larger than life – or at least, than her life – were the very real concerns of family financial crises, illnesses, and fears of growing old alone and a financial failure, short of being a beggar on the streets.
After coming close to a breakdown on her nth sleepless weekend at the office, though, her dreams began to appear again, albeit faintly. And so she tried. She quit her job and tried on a few trips and adventures with other people for size.
Yet, while she explored things that interested her, she could never fully enjoy and let herself go. It was though Worry was always in front of her, carrying a sign that said “Stop! There’s something you should think about!” Sometimes it was Guilt who flashed her that sign.
There were a few all-too-brief moments, yes, when she felt a flicker of her fiery younger self again, but they were gone as quickly as they came.
Until she met one person living her dream. Then another. And more. They were a curious bunch, these people. When she talked with any of them, it always felt like summer. They were like those brilliant flaming blossoms in the summer trees she loved, except that their passion burned bright all year round.
Fascinated and at the same time envious of these people’s fire, she finally asked the revolutionary question: “What if?”
And, for the first time in a long time, she felt like her child self again, so excited by her dreams that she could barely sleep. It was like finding again a love she did not even know she lost – and falling in love all over again.
One summer day, when her favorite fire trees were in full bloom, she set off to fulfill a childhood dream. She traveled solo for almost two months, crafting her own version of the quests she thought she would only see in fantasy. She climbed hills and waterfalls, swam with schools of fish, met more people living their dreams, trusted strangers, experienced firsts she did not think she would ever experience, got blissfully lost, and felt like the richest woman in the world. And yes, the sun baked her a beautiful brown.
When she returned home, she vowed never to forget her dreams again.
She has not figured everything out – not by a long shot. Often, she is still overwhelmed by fears. But, now that her dreams burn bright and vivid again, she knows that no matter the storm, summer is always with her.
This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers summer blog carnival this May 2013, hosted by Jona Branzuela Bering of Backpacking With A Book.