If I knew where I was going, I’d stop reading maps like they hold some special secret. I’d realize that they guide people toward a destination and not just away from themselves and I’d stop blaming physical boundaries and distance for all of my problems. I’d accept that the reason I always feel stuck is because I’m too afraid to cross the rivers and mountains that I’ve built up between myself and the people around me, between my actions and my ambitions, my muscles and my mind.
I’d stop standing in the rain until my clothes are heavy with water and my hair so tangled that I can’t see through it. I’d stop sending myself to that place where I want to see nothing, where I want to be alone with the sound of water pounding on my palms until it breaks through the skin, until it cracks them open and something new comes out.
I’d stop running the same path through the neighborhood, seeing the same trees that I see every day. They’ve been there forever, stuck still as they’ve watched families move in and out of the homes that they watch over. They’ll never see anything else but they’re content to sway in the wind that carries the scent of the sun to them every morning. I’d stop feeling sorry for them because this place is beautiful and it would be hard not to be happy here. I’d stop feeling selfish for always dreaming of somewhere else.
I’d stop taking economics classes just in case. I’d be able to convince myself that one day I’ll have a real job, not one in an office but one in the world. That every day I’ll arm myself with a conscience, a pen, and a camera and a smile will come naturally. I’ll come home and read a book and fall asleep dreaming of real life and not of fantasy.
I’d probably start carrying a purse because I’d give my ideas value, and I’d want to save them somewhere instead of putting them in my back pocket and letting them fall out. I’d buy a leather-bound journal and a book of poetry. I’d always have them with me and when I got bored, I’d create something from them instead of refreshing my iPhone for news about countries I’ll never visit.
I’d start saving all of my books. I would organize them by how many times I’ve read them, and then I’d put them on a shelf in a room with yellow walls where I knew I’d be staying for more than a few months. I’d collect all the works of my most beloved authors because I’d have a place to keep them instead of flying one or two favorites home in my carry-on. Or maybe I wouldn’t read as much. I’d have a sense of permanence outside of written worlds and I wouldn’t crave an escape from my own anymore. I wouldn’t want to dissolve into their pages; I’d want to darken the ink on my own.
I’d be more certain of what’s important to me and more aware of what isn’t. My mind would stop wandering, fabricating characters that I want to become even though I’ve never met them, places that I want to call home even though they may not exist. Maybe I would fall asleep before four a.m. and wake up in time to see the morning. The self-doubt that’s collected itself into heavy circles under my eyes would lose some of its weight. I’d know what it’s like not to be tired from spending all night staring at the ceiling, searching for something in a place too infinite to cover until I know what I’m looking for.