I took a step into the warm sunlight and let its golden rays wash over my damp face.
In the movies when characters are walking away and moving on, they never look back. They never look back because they are so focused on where there going, that the only place they have to look, is forward.
But as I stood outside of the house that had been my home my whole life,
I looked back.
And I guess real life is not like the movies, because even when we're ready to move on. Even when we're so ready for change, it does not make it any easier for everything to actually change. It does not make the past simply disappear.
Our past is not just an old backpack of memories we can just drop off at our closest donation center and go get a new one.
It’s a part of us, and I guess even though we can only move forward, we look both ways. Look where we're going, but also look where we’ve been.
After all, we were taught to always look both ways, weren’t we?
My childhood home's warm grey coat of paint was faded and peeling only slightly now, but I could still smell the sharp heavy aroma of fresh paint on the day we moved in. Now the house seemed to glow as it bathed in the late afternoon sunlight, turning the grey a soft orange. The wooden door I had opened and closed a thousand times before, stood tall and proud at the front of the house. I had locked it, and unlocked it, slammed it, and gently closed it.
But I had closed it for the last time.
The window at the front of the house, that was connected to my bedroom, had been the only thing separating me from the rest of the world my whole life.
Within the small building, I called home, I had grown up, learned about life, about just how hard life can be. But also, how truly incredible and all the adventures it can contain.
And I knew I had so many more adventures ahead, just like I had so many behind me.
“You ready Layla?” I turned towards the familiar voice, my best friend Miles, stood on the road, his back to the sunlight, so changed and yet so much the same as the first time I had met him. I welcomed the smile that spread across my face and the warmth that curled tightly around my heart, banishing the cool sadness that had lingered there.
That is when you know, that you have a best friend I figure, when no matter what is going on in your life or what you’re going through, talking to them or just having them there with you, always makes things better, if only the slightest. Like having them around, makes your burdens just a little bit lighter, when you do not have to carry them all alone.
He grinned, his soft auburn hair falling around his ears as he raked a hand through it, in a gesture that he had been doing since we met. I hurried towards him, my childhood house behind me, but all the memories I had made in it, like my wings carrying me forward.
Memories I think are like that, while they can feel an awful lot like weights sometimes, especially when their things we do not care to remember. However, even the bad memories, still have gotten you to where you are today. And so, all the memories you have, they let you fly, they are your wings.
And one of my greatest memories started nearly three years ago.
I had been nearly seventeen and had lived in the same spot my whole life, but other than school I rarely left my room. And it's not that I was not happy, because I was. I would dance and laugh to my favorite music in my room like any other teenager, but after the music ended and I would collapse on my bed knowing that nobody in the world even knew my favorite song, it was hard. But the world outside my window was even harder, and so I kept to myself.
But that is no way to live you see, everyone needs someone to talk to sometimes, and I guess it’s a tragedy of our species, that as humans are world is so overpopulated and yet still so many of us end up feeling lonely.
But one day, things changed, as things tend to do.
I had just got home from school, and my parents were not going to be home for another hour. I changed into something more comfortable and was just about to go get a snack when I noticed a big truck out of my window.
Curiosity tugging at my mind, I moved my curtain back farther so I could get a full view of the large house across from mine, that had been empty for almost as long as I could remember. The truck was clearly a moving van, and there were a couple of adults all huddled together sitting on boxes in the yard, laughing, and drinking what looked to be coke-a-colas.
I remember thinking they looked so happy all together like they had known each other forever,
Like nothing in the world could ever tear them apart. With that thought my chest tightened with a longing I did not quite understand. Taking a breath, I made to gaze up at the sky when I caught sight of someone staring right back at me through the window of the house in front of mine.
My eyes widened, my heart leaping in fear, and I without thinking dropped to the ground.
Still trying to register what just happened, I calmly counted to ten in my head, and then nerves slicing through my body I slowly peeked my head back up, just enough for me to be able to see the boy in the window. To my horror, he was still there grinning, like he knew I would poke my head back up.
I thought about hiding again, but there was no point, after all, he had clearly already seen me, so slowly I stood back up. And crossing my arms firmly over my chest I stared right back.
His rosy, brown hair had been long even then, but he had it pulled back, almost hidden under a baseball cap. I remember feeling odd for staring, but he stared right back, watching me with this mischievous grin across his face, I could see even from my spot across the road. After a moment he disappeared, and I slowly melted back into my room. My heart still beating faster than it should have been, it's not like I had actually met anyone new, just seen someone through a window. Just a window.
But it's never just anything in life, you see, everything has significance, even the tiniest moments.
My parents got home with dinner that night, and I laughed with them at the dinner table, as we ate slices of pizza dunked in cheese sauce just the way I liked it. I hadn’t mentioned the little interaction I had with our new neighbor, but instead tried to forget about it, putting it off of my mind thinking it was no big deal.
But it was a big deal, though I didn’t know that at the time, of course, we never know moments are going to change our lives until they do.
After I was done cleaning up the dinner dishes, I pulled on some pajama pants that were cozy and soft against my skin and pulled my hair up so it was out of my face. I was just about to find my book when I noticed soft flashing from outside my window. Carefully I peaked out and sure enough, the boy was there again in his window, shining a flashlight at mine.
As soon as our eyes met, he grinned again and held up a finger before disappearing. Confused and a little afraid I watched as the boy’s room lit up and he appeared back at the window this time with a piece of paper he held to the glass.
I looked from the words to his grinning face and then slowly backed up to dig through my dresser for a marker and a piece of paper.
Carefully I scrolled my message down backward, trying and failing to match his elegant handwriting, and then hesitantly I moved back to the window and held my piece of paper up.
He gave a dramatic wave from his side of the street and then bent slightly as he wrote something else.
My name is Miles, we just moved in.
I read his message, not quite sure what to say. He waited a couple of moments, his smile slowly melting off his face, like sunlight sliding down the sky, and then pressed a new message to the glass.
Don’t you have a name?
I read his message twice, and then quickly scribbled down on a fresh piece of paper, and held it up.
It's just Layla.
His smile reappeared and after a moment a new message was pressed against the glass of his window.
Nice to meet you just Layla.
Even then, I could not help the smile that claimed my face, and I'll let you know on a secret when you meet people that make you not be able to control your smiles.
Never let them go.
Nice to meet you to Miles.
I could hear my parents coming up the stairs, so I gave a quick wave and tugged my curtains closed, quickly shoveling the small pile of paper messages into my desk.
The next day, I was sitting with my mom on the couch, when someone knocked on our door.
Confusion spun in my head as I turned to my mom, she just shrugged as she stood to go answer it. Taking a breath, I hurried after her.
I do not know what I was expecting honestly, it's not like we got visitors often, but it definitely wasn’t to see him, standing right in front of me.
A tall Lady stood in our doorway offering my mom a plate of cookies, she had tanned freckled skin and red hair pulled back away from her face in two thick braids that fell down her back.
“Hello, I’m Maddy, this is my son Miles. We just moved in, I thought we would come and say hello.”
My mother quickly let them inside, gushing.
“Oh, welcome to the neighborhood, that house has been deserted for years, I’m so glad we're going to get some new faces around here.”
I tried to concentrate on what my mother was saying, but my mind was going rather quickly as Milo slowly held up a hand and waved innocently.
I held up my hand to wave back, and then immediately regrated it when he cleared his throat.
“Do you want to come to go on a bike ride with me and a couple of friends?”
I sucked in a breath, surprise, excitement, and pure terror driving out every other thought and worry from my head.
My mother patted my shoulder,
“Oh, she would love to! That will be fun Layla, you need some fresh air anyway.”
I pursed my lips in a smile, trying to ignore the strong urge to run the other direction, and followed Miles out into the sun, tugging on some of my sandals on the way.
I was fidgeting with my hands like mad, I was so nervous, and excited.
And perhaps, the best things in our lives will always make us feel that way,
awfully nervous, but also so excited.
I followed the strange boy across the road where sure enough three kids waited.
I remember thinking they all looked about my age, there was another girl, with chocolate-colored curls that were tied up in space buns, and bright makeup that stood out against her skin. She grinned as we got closer.
“Hey, Miles, who’s this?”
One of the other boys laughed and mockingly repeated what the girl said,
“Yeah Miles, Who’s this?”
The girl rolled her eyes and punched him in the shoulder, causing him to screech and push his bike farther away from her dramatically.
Miles rolled his eyes beside me,
“Gang this is Layla. Layla this is Jean, the girl gave a little wave. And Max and Cole.”
He told me gesturing to the other boys who both gave me odd grins, like they were both trying and failing to hold in laughter.
Jean rolled her vibrant pink bike closer to me,
“Nice to meet you, Layla, this is just perfect, we needed another girl in our group,” she gushed.
I couldn’t help but smile at her excited vibrant personality and felt myself relax.
Miles was saying something to Max and Cole, and they were both laughing as he turned back towards me and Jean.
“Layla, do you have a bike?”
I felt my eyebrows raise and I smiled slightly,
“Of course, I have a bike.”
He laughed, “You want to go get it? We're going to head out soon.”
I nodded slowly, “Where are we going?”
Cole let out a wild whoop suddenly that made my adrenalin rumble in my chest,
“On an adventure, of course, what else?”
Jean, Max, and Miles all let out whoops of their own, and I couldn’t help but laugh at their unfiltered excitement.
Miles drew closer, and smiling down at me asked, “what do you think?”
I smiled tightly, “I think the four of you are crazy.”
His smile only grew at that,
“Oh of course we are, but you have to be a little crazy to live life to the fullest, wouldn’t you agree? Care to make it five?”
He held out his hand as if offering me a business agreement.
And I thought of my cozy room across the street, my book on the side of my bed, and my parents’ downstairs.
My world that was so simple, but I realized I did not want simple, I wanted to live my life to the fullest. And we can’t do that by playing it safe. We cannot do that without things changing sometimes.
After all, I wanted someone to know my favorite song, so I grinned wide to match his own and shook his hand dramatically, “Ready for an adventure.”
They all whooped again, and I spun away to hurry and get my bike, my heart racing, and my smile not going away any time soon.
Before I reached the sidewalk, I could hear Jean declare, “I like her.” And each of them agreeing in unison, “Me too.”
It was one of the best things I had ever heard in my life.
And we did go on an adventure that day, and another one after that, and another one after that.
Every other night, I would be with them trying something new, laughing together, jumping into lakes, trying new sports, learning to cook, going to concerts. It was always something new, and always I would come home grinning and so excited I would get upstairs and hold a paper to my bedroom window for Miles to see.
When is our next adventure?
And his answer was always the same.
And so that’s the story of how I met Miles and the gang, we had been friends since that day he invited me to go biking with them. And now we were about to start the biggest adventure yet. Moving into an apartment all together, all five of us.
Miles pulled me into a tight embrace, and I tucked my head against his chest.
You see change is hard, but we need change for things to become amazing, in order for adventures to happen, and in order for us to live our lives to the absolute fullest.
Change is hard, but without it, none of us would be where we are today.
None of us would be who we are today.
I heard laughter behind us and pealed away just slightly from Miles to catch sight of the van pulling up with Jean hanging her head out the window laughing as Cole sang dramatically in the passenger seat to whatever the three of them were listening to.
“You ready for our next adventure” Miles whispered against my hair, and I grinned, and with no hesitation whispered,
And then I let out a delighted whoop, which was quickly repeated by Miles, and then the rest of our crazy friends.
So, I guess what I’ve been trying to say, is if anyone ever asks you to go on an adventure with them.
Even if it means things changing, change is good.
Change is needed, to make your life an adventure worth living.
And it is worth living.
A million times, it's worth living.