TO CHOOSE THE WILD
It was 7pm on a Friday night when I decided to go for a walk around the area where I live. Walking down the steep hills of my street I was reminded that Fall somehow snuck its’ way in past summers’ glory and now neighbors were making fires inside their homes to embrace this new season and it filled the air I was walking through with such beauty and nostalgia.
The sun had just set and I was free to see where my curious steps would lead within the darkness of the night. If there was one prominent reason why I decided to move down South away from my work and most of my friends earlier this summer, besides to be able to live cheaply on my own, would be for nights like these. On a night like this, I would have typically gotten home, relaxed for a minute and then would have found friends with free spirits to drink down some spirits wearing my weekend uniform of a mini skirt and red lipstick. But I’m embracing my quieter days, at least for now, and it feels right. To wake up feeling fresh so I can write in healthiness sounds so appealing to me at this stage. I kept walking up a street I don’t typically walk just to see where it would lead. I put on my headphones and allowed for my music to play freely randomly shuffling through all of the songs I’ve collected throughout the years. As each song played, I was brought back to the time when I first heard it and why I loved it. Memories of 2015, of 2011, of 2008 and memories of now. Each song made me so fulfilled inside even if it reminded me of sadness. Through it all I allowed my feet to keep taking me further and further down the dark road where I have yet discovered.
A song came on with a dance beat and a typical and repetitive melody. I innately felt the pull of my fingers to change it to the next song but I made myself listen to it and embrace where I was and why I liked it the day I added it into my music playlist. Thanksgiving weekend, I was in Las Vegas. This trip was without a doubt the worst trip I’ve had to the city. I had found myself intertwined into the most random mix of people – ranging from Australians, Europeans and a man from Singapore – all sharing a suite at the MGM complimentary of the company they worked for that I’ll leave unnamed. How I got the invite is another story. Maybe I’m wild at heart but the idea of receiving an invite into this luxurious version of partying in Vegas was one I couldn’t turn down. A bucket list item that my wild side needed to check off. Check mark complete. After nearly 30 hours with these people I found myself in the corner of the casino standing near the loud slot machines changing my flight time to ensure I could still make it on time to my family’s Thanksgiving. Side note, my family typically gets together for Thanksgiving the Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend due to In-Laws so I thought I could whim fully squeeze in a little trip to Vegas beforehand. But after quickly demystifying the glamorous depiction of what this version of partying in Vegas feels, priorities shot through my veins and I knew that I didn’t want to risk missing this dinner. $100 later and my flight departure was moved. I now needed to go get my things. Although my priorities were in full swing, the steady intoxication of my poor brain made it mandatory to Shazam this dance song that played as the theme song to my change of heart. And with that immediate purchase of the song, this memory is kept forever with me courtesy of my iTunes playlist.
With my flight time having moved up drastically I now needed to find the others for the hotel key which was a challenge in itself. Luckily I randomly ran into one of the couples, who weren’t a couple at the beginning of the trip but now had magically become one and were already fighting with each other. They were so entangled with each others every hurtful words that they basically threw the hotel key at me just to make me go away. Task number one: Done.
My next challenge was to retrieve my things and find an Uber to take me to the airport. I had planned plenty of time before my flight except that when I exited the hotel I had exited on a strange street and it was hard to get an Uber right away. I ended up having to take two of the overhead walkways to find a proper Uber pick up zone and by this time I was sweating. It only took about 7 minutes to get to the airport once I found an Uber. Luckily I didn’t have to check my bag so I walked straight towards TSA. I had packed my converse with me just in case I decided to ever change out of my knee high blue suede boots. Successfully making it almost through TSA, security was flagged to take a better look at my little white shoes sitting innocently within the white bin. The woman who wore a badge waved a little hand help device over my sneakers as it beeped angrily. She picked them up, looked me in the eye without a smile and walked into a room allowing the door to close behind her. My mind immediately scanned through all of the places I’ve been with those shoes. Farms in Kenya and music festivals in Texas of course she found something on my shoes. Those things have seen it all. I just hope I can make my flight. Just as my stomach started turning into knots she returned with my shoes and said that I was good to go. The only word that came to my mind immediately was, “wow.” I slung my bag over my shoulder and I headed towards gate G13. I was so proud of myself for making my flight in such beautiful time that I would be able to gracefully board without waiting. And just as I walked up to gate G12 I noticed that the next gate read G14. “Wait, what?” I asked myself. “How is this happening?” I looked down at my ticket again and clearly read G13. But G13 isn’t here.
I know I haven’t slept in the last two days and I’ve been surviving off of Red Bull vodkas but how am I not seeing this clearly?
One more look down at my ticket and I read SEAT G13!! “Oh my gosh, I’m an idiot.” Seat G13 not gate. My internal voice began lecturing me in the third person saying, “I can’t believe you’ve done this to us Kimberly.” I was sure I was going to miss my flight. So which gate was I?
Luck still remaining on my side I looked all around my ticket and found that my gate was still G. At least I was in the right part of the airport. G45 was where I needed to board my flight. I began walking as quickly as my legs could walk in hopes of not missing this flight. All I wanted was to make it in time for my family’s Thanksgiving. Trying to keep my cool while walking at the speed of light the intercom comes on over the entire terminal of the international airport saying, “Last call for Ms. Kimberly Moodey, your plane is now departing.” With every last ounce of energy I felt within my body I ran as quickly as my legs would allow. Not a bone in my body cared that I was that cliche running though the airport about to miss my flight. Please just get me there in time. As I turned the last corner of terminal G, my body was screaming to stop and I felt my legs begin to buckle. My brain kicked in saying, “there’s no way this body is slowing down yet. We’re almost there. We’re not missing this flight.” Maintaining my lightning bolt speed I ran past what looked like a cafe where a woman working the cafe shouted at me, “Do you need to use the bathroom?” Acknowledging this question without turning my head I shouted back to her, “Yes!” As the lie left my lips I thought that even throughout my panic I always enjoy an opportunity for humor. As I approached gate G45 there was nothing left in me to keep my legs running so turning the corner to the woman taking boarding passes I nearly fainted. Her face looked like she had just seen a ghost and with all the energy I could muster I whispered, “Did I miss it?” Walking up to her, I placed my hand on her podium to stable myself so I could breathe without fainting. I asked again, “Did I miss my flight?” She said, “No you definitely have time to catch your breath.” She started laughing and told me to have a seat and that the plane won’t leave without me. She offered me water and complimented my boots. “Thank you.” I said. “But they’re not that great to run in.”
As I continued on my walk through my peaceful neighborhood, I remembered that I had seen a large lake nearby on Google Maps. With my dance song now ending and transitioning into a more fitting song for my tranquil walk I decided to go find the lake to sit by its’ side under the stars. I walked along a busy street for several minutes before finding a path near a creek while each song reminded me of story after story. Songs that retold the story of writing music in the woods of Idaho with my friend Hannah and early mornings in college when I used to sit in the Pacific Ocean on my surf board awake with the fish before the sun and the rest of the world. I have so many different versions of myself. I’ve lived many lives. But even within all of these different channels throughout my bones I am, as one, myself. I felt as though I was getting closer to the lake walking up a hill on the sidewalk next to a road I’ve never before seen. The road began to lead itself over a bridge and just as the street changed to this, I saw a dirt pathway that lead down to the side of the bridge. The smell of nature and the darkness of the wilderness enticed me to walk this path rather the safe and well lit street that guaranteed my safety. I asked myself,
“What kind of traveling soul are you? Within your journey, do you take the road that’s already been paved ahead of you? Or do you take the road less traveled? Carving your path throughout the wild?” Of course I chose the wild.
Immediately upon taking my steps through the trees and dust and dirt I looked up and felt a rush of blood through my body as the beauty of the tall wild grass held abstract shapes and shadows from the moon above. This worlds beauty is captivating and it’s through the off beaten path that guides us towards this beauty most. As my tiny dirt road took me down into the valley of tall grass I saw the height of the bridge grow tall over me. I reminded myself that coyotes run wild in these parts, I hear them every night before falling asleep cackling at their kill. I thought to myself, “Is this something that should concern me?” I kept walking. It was such strange timing that a song that I had once loved in 2009 came on at this time that made me think, “Coyotes aren’t as terrifying as wild leopards. I think I’ll be ok.”
When I graduated college in 2009 I went to visit my family in Kenya. It was one of the most beautiful vacations I’ve had and at a time in my life when I was so free. On one lazy afternoon while staying with my aunt and uncle, I decided to go on a walk before dinner. About an hour flight time away from Nairobi, they live in the essence of nature in an area of Kenya that they refer to as ‘The Bush.’ I decided to walk down to the river which was about a thirty minute walk from camp. I knew that the baboons were the animals to be aware of since the drought that was threatening the landscape had pushed most of the other wildlife towards areas more Southern for food and water. All I had to ensure was to make it home before the sunset and I would be safe from utter darkness. The walk was beautiful and the river was serene. I still remember how the setting sun light cracked through in-between the vines and trees as the river water kept the air cool. Not staying too long, I wanted to make it back before the sun set so I began my return. About half way through my walk throughout the silence of nature I heard a rawr suddenly that sounded like it was coming from the thicket of trees down off onto my right. I immediately stopped in my tracks and thought, “That can’t be what it sounds like.” I stood there waiting to hear it again but assuring myself that the sound was something made up in my mind. There aren’t big cats around this area, they’ve all migrated South. And just as I started to take a few steps again towards camp the rawr came even louder than before and I was absolutely assured that it was coming from a large and wild cat. I looked all around me to see what type of cat it could possibly be and if in fact it was talking to me.
What was I supposed to do? I was out in the wild alone and I fear I’m being hunted.
If I turn back to where the Maasai live, they could call my uncle for me but that’s about a fifteen minute walk. If I continue walking I can get back to camp but that’s about fifteen minutes too. Interrupting my contemplation came another rawr that was clearly being called at me and I began walking straight towards camp. I thought, “Ok, just stay calm because animals sense fear. I don’t want this cat to know that” and before my thought could finish another rawr came and it was even louder than before. I told myself, “At least let me die trying.” I began running faster than I’ve ever run before. With my mouth tasting like I had eaten an entire aluminum can due to sheer adrenaline being pumped through my body I was hurdling over boulders that normal Kim would never have been able to do. I didn’t know what kind of cat was after me but I really hoped to out run it. Was it a good thing that I couldn’t see it or am I truly about to die? With every rock I jumped over and every large stride I ran I thought of my cross country coach and how proud he would’ve been of my form and speed. Nearly ten minutes had passed and I was almost back to camp and without the sounds of the large cat nearby. I couldn’t believe I was still alive. I actually couldn’t believe that had just happened. As I entered the beginning part of camp I through my arms over my head to breathe as deeply as possible without throwing up. I saw my aunt off into the distance and I tried as hard as I could to conceal my panic. Walking up to her I asked, “Do you know if there are any big cats around here?” She replied back saying, “I’m not sure.” Once I made it back to my tent I sat on my bed and began laughing uncontrollably. “I can’t believe that just happened” I thought. Later we found out that the night watchmen, known as Escari, came across the large male leopard soon after. The leopard is the largest leopard they’ve ever seen and from this day none of the Maasai, not even the Escari, will walk on the path where he lives. With my leopard story flashing through my mind as I walked alongside the tall bridge out in the wild on a quest to finding the lake I told myself,
“I’ve outrun leopards, I can outrun coyotes.”
An hour into my walk and I began seeing the reflection of water through the trees as my path widened and began to look more like a regional park. I saw ahead of me, a park bench up on the top of the small hill to my right and I decided to gravitate towards it. With one quick climb I was standing on top of this hill that gave me a clear view of the lake I had been pursuing and it was just as beautiful as I had hoped. I laid down across the wooden bench still listening to music and I stared at the stars that flickered brightly through the faint clouds that looked like stretched cotton balls. I made it to my destination.
As much as it’s said, time and time again, it is our journey that holds our stories. It is the journey that define us. Our life is as full as we allow for it to be.
Laying next to the lake on my perfect Friday night I thought about how all of those stories I had just relived took place within a time span of ten years. What will the next ten years hold for me? There’s no way of ever truly knowing the answers to this question. Within our journey, do we take the road that’s already been paved? Or is it desired to take the road less traveled, carving a path throughout the wild? Of course I will always choose the wild.