Running Out of the Woods, Facing North

There is this vivid memory I have in my head. After my initial depressive shockwave that took over the entirety of my soul for the first two weeks of the start of the Covid19 pandemic, I was looking for an opposite feeling. And for a while, I found a tiny bit of that. While I did not know that though my position in society would move on, the pandemic and its perpetrators would not. For a little bit of time, there was nothing to do except to run. It was my one allowance outside the suburban walls of my house and pollen-covered grass that seemed somehow more green than ever before. And so I ran and I ran and I ran more than sixty miles for a couple of months before my chronic illness finally manifested into physical form as the stress of my world being turned upside down finally took hold. 

I’m running and I’m leaving the dense forestry of the Princeton Battlefield woods and trail. I’m surfacing out into the sunny field after cruising through the muggy and buggy treed canopies, I would run 6.2 miles that day. And as I face North back onto the field all I see is that lightness flooding over the green meadow that glistens and shimmers in the wind. I’m running out of the woods and I see brightness North and now when I remember that memory I see something else. Now when I close my eyes and clench my fists really tight I don’t see the old battlefield and itchy grass but I see all that my future has become since. 

That moment feels like just yesterday but there are countless things that have changed since then. Since I ran out of the woods I came out as a lesbian, I started seeing a therapist, one extremely unhealthy relationship ended, and another although healthy and beautiful one, forces me to grieve today. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and then had the nerve to beat it. I became an English major and realized my love for architecture. I had a dream about a lighthouse and for the rest of my life that artificial light has projected a new future. I discovered my own little corner of the world in Maine and made friends with some old people. I loved a dog more than anything I’ve ever loved. I ran a half marathon. I started this very same blog. I became a writer, a Marxist, and a full-fledged comrade. I learned that my anxiety is overcomable. I led a team to the most wins in decades and found my voice on the court. I started taking medicine three times a week and sticking to my bedtime like it’s the bible. I traveled across the Atlantic and across state borders for vaccinations. I found words in maps. I told stories. I climbed mountains and mountains oh my. I swam in the deep, frozen ocean blue— and drove with the windows hand-cranked down. 

I faced one time when I was scared of my aloneness and then again. And it got easier. 

I am scared of my photos app.

I learned that love isn’t easy. I learned that love isn’t easy and it teaches you so much so at least for that reason, it has to be worth it. 

So now maybe I’m a hotshot. A fellow, a published writer. No, that’s not the point, not at all. The point is that in a second I’m back in that memory— coming out of the woods onto the Northern sunny field. And instead of the grass and the empty street, I see this. And I am old and my joints hurt and my heart is currently broken. And I have to tell people what happened and I have to tell myself what happened even though I don’t know what happened: that love is hard and growing up is hard and yet I am worthy of both. 

And that I want to teach.

And live by the ocean and be the real-life lupine lady that I read about in a children’s book and then met in person when I grew up. Make-believe can be real and I am a testament to that. Believe me, that run, that day, was something special. 

If North is up on a compass then does that mean I am evolving? Following my star? Each year and second getting better or accumulating material? I know I feel better and that seems good enough. But part of me misses that innocence when I ran out of the woods, facing North. How little I had yet to learn, how little I had yet to lose. I’m still waiting for the fog to disappear and the stars to come out to play. And even though I feel okay right now, part of me is still waiting for that North, little light, to come back.

Pictured: a random photo I took on one of my long runs. I must have liked the shadows from the sun.

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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