The Unpaved Road

Submitted into Contest #127 in response to: Write about a character learning to trust their intuition.... view prompt

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Fiction Contemporary Coming of Age

All her life Sylvia had lived for others, and not for herself. 

Since the moment she could walk her life had been neatly laid out for her, like a checklist that only served to taunt and restrain her. She had to work hard so she could get good grades and go to a good college and then go to an even better one for grad school. All the while she would save up money from little part-time jobs here and there while balancing other volunteer activities so that she could grow into a well rounded person. All this so she could make her family proud, and ultimately make their sacrifices worth it. 

There was never any time for rest. If she wasn’t spending any waking moment of every day doing something productive, something that would ultimately serve to bolster up her future and set her up for life, then she was just wasting her time. The mere suggestion of it was simply unthinkable. 

This was the life that she had lived for so long. For twenty two years to be exact. 

In doing so she was merely existing, not thriving as she went through the motions of what society told her that she had to do to live the perfect life. 

Day after day this same routine continued and as the years ticked by, the shards of exhaustion, hopelessness and misery pierced away at her soul. But Sylvia couldn’t stop, she couldn’t slow down because then who would she be? 

In all seriousness though, who was she? 

***

As she stepped onto the train holding the ticket that she had purchased a week ago, Sylvia knew with all her heart that this was what she was meant to do. The tight feeling in her chest had subsided and instead she felt a flush of warm and exhilaration flood her senses. 

Perhaps she would make her way up north and find a charming little café to sit in as she worked on the stories that she had kept bottled up for so long. Or maybe she could head out east and go explore a city full of dazzling lights that would sparkle throughout the night like little stars that never faded. Better yet, she could head south till she hit the sparkling blue waves and sandy beaches that had enticed her for so long. Maybe then she would finally have the opportunity to take the surfing lessons that she had always longed for. 

Her parents hadn’t been thrilled when she had announced at dinner last night that she was going to take some time off. Correction, they had been completely and utterly taken aback. The shock of the announcement had caused her mom to spill her drink all over herself and her dad’s face had gotten so red that it resembled a cherry tomato. Her friends, while supportive, also hadn’t been able to hide their confusion and bewilderment over her plans. Her boss at her internship had been so reluctant to accept her resignation that he had come close to begging her to change her mind. How was it possible that she was going to veer off of the perfect trajectory that she had set up for herself? 

No one understood her choice. 

And that was okay, because they didn’t need to. 

***

It had all changed when a spontaneous road trip had led her to open up her eyes for the first time in forever. A few months ago on a cold December morning, she and her friends had packed together a truck and cruised off towards the mountains in search of snow. They drove for hours, twisting up the winding road until they had finally reached a checkpoint when some rangers were waiting. The one closest to them then knocked on their window and proceeded to inform them that they would have to turn back, all the roads up ahead were closed. 

Disappointed, the group made their way back down the path that they had just come up. The ride was silent, the air thick with dismay and frustration as everyone began slowly peeling away the abundance of layers that they had donned in preparation for the soft banks of freshly fallen snow. Sylvia pulled off the thick wool knitted hat that she had stuffed her long locks into and was about to take a nap when something out in the distance caught her eye. 

“Wait, can we stop here?” She begged her friends as they came to a stop at a path that split up in two directions.

 Straight ahead was the road that would take them back down the mountain and lead them on their way home. To the right  was a small clearing that would take them down to a river that weaved through some small hills that were decorated by lush grass and smooth gray rocks. 

“Do you guys mind if we take a quick detour?” Sylvia asked. “I know there’s no snow, but I just want to take in the view”. 

To her surprise, the rest of the group agreed and the driver made a right turn towards the river. Sylvia was the first one out of the truck, and she was so eager to rush up to the river bank that she left her hat behind. The cool mountain air whipped at her face and in response Sylvia held her arms spread out, as if inviting the wind to scoop her up and take her on a ride. 

As she stood there, watching the way the river flowed and taking in the beauty and perfection of the scenery that surrounded her, Sylvia knew that this was what was missing from her life. This was what she needed. There was so much out in the world, so many sights and places and things that she had gotten the chance to experience because she had always been so vigilant about not straying off the path that had been laid before her. 

She didn’t know what exactly she wanted to do with her life, but she knew she would never truly figure it out if she didn’t take detours every once in a while and explore other untraveled roads. 

***

Sylvia carefully sat down on her designated seat and looked out the window at the life that she was leaving behind. For the first time in her life she had no clear cut path laid out for her, no lingering voices in her ears that pointed her in the “right” direction. There wasn’t going to be anyone who told her what she should or shouldn’t do. That role was going to be left entirely up to her and as terrifying as that thought was, it was also the most wonderful thing she could have ever experienced. She caught a glimpse of herself in the glass and couldn’t help but break out in a wide smile as she  locked eyes with her own reflection. 

This was the right thing for her to do. 

She was finally learning to trust herself and her intuition. 

Never again would she ignore it. 

January 08, 2022 04:44

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