For Two Years, I Lived on a Ranch
A Week in Writing: Day One
“What have I done?”, I think as we drive down the bumpy dirt road. Lightning is flashing in the distance, my sister is crying to my right, and up front, the rental van’s rear view mirror is shaking so violently, I fear it may fall off. Life is unpredictable: one day you’re surrounded by the comfort of familiarity; the next, you’re headed down an isolated highway on the other side of the country, searching for the place that will soon become home. The highway turnoff was so inconspicuous, my dad actually drove past it twice, before finding the right path. At the end of the road awaited J.T.C., my new home — 300 acres of converted ranch. I had no idea what to expect.
Far from civilization, J.T.C. and all it encompassed became my life. My time there was transformative. It was refreshing, even enlightening, to be part of such a diverse population. At School, I was able to develop my identity. I learned that although rock climbing is not my forte, I enjoy hiking. I also learned that spending time outdoors surrounded by nature’s comfort, is a necessary respite from the rush of daily life. Lastly, I learned that though sharing a bathroom may be challenging, living with friends makes enduring the challenge worthwhile. The memories I made, especially those of bonfires, all-nighters, euphoric hikes, and languid morning jogs, have helped me form a new perspective on life. I have come to understand that the times we appreciate most, don’t have to be spectacularly grand. Sometimes, the little things, those easily overlooked and under-appreciated events, hold the most value. J.T.C. became an integral part of who I am, and saying that I was unprepared to transfer schools is an understatement. Unfortunately, my parents were ready for me to return “home”.
Although leaving for J.T.C. had been painless, as I wasn’t incredibly fond of my hometown, returning to public school was more challenging because I was forced to detach myself from the place I loved. Throughout junior year, I experienced bouts of nostalgia, as I longed for things to return to the way they once were. Because I was continually comparing my present to my past, I was discontent. Furthermore, I was ignorant of the cause of my dissatisfaction. Initially, I thought I had embraced the change. However, I later realized that I was unhappy and, in order to become happy, I had to “let go”: I had to stop comparing past and present circumstances. I have discovered that if I compare everything to a better time, I will never experience satisfaction. In the words of Shunryu Suzuki, “Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure […] Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.” Guilty of the latter, I realized that it was time to loosen my clutch on the past, accept the present, and embrace the future.
Accepting transience, I have learned to accept and be grateful for all I endure. I recognize that each experience is valuable in its own way. I am grateful for those which have helped shape my identity, but now I see that life is a continuous series of changes to which I must adapt, whether I’d like to or not. Life is unpredictable. I, like my father driving down that bumpy dirt road in the rain, could have missed my “turnoff”. If so, I would have continued down a drastically different path — a path that would not have led to J.T.C. at all. Had that been the case, my hope is that I would have still learned this vital lesson. The upcoming year will bring many changes — some fleeting, others more long-term. I am excited to see what the future holds. Come what may, I am ready.
I startef this challenge with the beginning of the end: My College Essay.
I remember putting an insane amount of time and effort into this paper. I wanted to recreate myself and my experiences on paper, so I could be judged as a person, not a number. I would like to thank my College Writing teacher for spending her lunches with me. Thanks for the conversation, and the thoughtful criticism.
Note: J.T.C. doesn’t stand for anything. I used it as a filler, to replace the school’s name.