I found myself alone in a Ford SUV packed to the seams with all of the things I owned: three plastic boxes full of yellow paperbacks and journals, a duffle of clothing, a trash bag with old winter boots and umbrellas. I was on 17 West, a strip of road that cuts east through Vermont. I had just graduated college and didn’t feel sad or depressed or lonely or anything at all. I was driving through fog uphill and listening to static country music and felt removed from the world, felt it impossible that there could be anything that existed outside of this car or the narrow strip of gravel that married me to mist and mountain.
People feel different things after they graduate college but I can guarantee you that almost all of them feel a little deflated, like a little glowing something has been sucked from the center of their heart. People grieve for college in different ways and to varying degrees of extremity, but there is always this emptiness that they wade through. I know I felt it and feel it and certainly with more ferocity than ever as I slowly crawled my way up the gravel turns, searching for any signs of life or guardrail to assure me that I’d be safe.
Eventually, the fog lifted and I arrived at a small outlook. I was perched atop App gap, a wide mountain pass nestled into the crook of the Green Mountains. I parked the car and walked to the edge. For nearly a quarter of my conscious life, this place had been my home: these sharp upshoots of evergreen, the mountains with their valleys and their snow. To stand there felt both familiar and foreign and comforting and terrifying. This place that had been at times both my greatest playground and my greatest barbed-wire-fence stood before me as something that was suddenly neither of those things any longer.
I stood at the edge and wanted to scoop it all into my back pocket, to save it for the lifetime of nights I knew would take me far from this place. I took a photo instead. I screamed the way people in movies scream on the tops of mountains. I wrote a note on the back of a piece of scrap paper that I’d folded into a paper plane and sent it veering into the fog. It was not as cathartic as I had hoped it would be. It felt fake and I felt fake and even the photo didn’t capture the tango of light and tree limb very well. I slipped my way in between box and bag and made my way to move from this outlook and continued my journey into the uncertain mist.
I could not see the entire road that lay before me, but the lights from the sun and my high beams illuminated the small patches I needed to move forward. I crept slowly and haltingly, but onward, always onward.