Forest for the Trees

For the last thirteen years or so, I’ve been lost in the woods.

I’ve learned to survive–to thrive, even, but it didn’t change the fact that I was lost. And afraid. That I was ruled by survival instincts. That things often felt hopeless.

But I had gotten used to it, as one does, and carried on with my life. At least, as well as you can when your primary focus is making it through the day. It worked well enough, though. I was able to manage.

And then I started fighting. Started believing I could find my way out. I had accepted the forest as a permanent reality, but as of late, I’d started thinking there was another option.

So I searched. I retraced my steps. I ventured onto new paths…and completely off the path. It was hard work. Tiring. Frightening. I was stepping outside the safe boundaries I’d created within the forest, entering into uncharted territory on the off-chance the risk would prove worth it.

It was strange to feel motivated to escape when, for so long, I had believed that there was no life outside the forest for me. For others, yes, but not me. They would go on, and explore, and I would wander, eternally lost in my dark forest. That was all I had believed could exist for me for so long, I couldn’t remember a time before.

These were the things the monsters whispered to me.

The journey has proved terrifying. There are horrors in this forest. Dark, twisted things that I had successfully avoided for years came out to haunt me. To destroy me.

They say, “The only way out is through,” and that has proved alarmingly true for the forest.  There was no way around the monsters lurking there. I had to defeat them, lest they defeat me.

I had to brave the most frightening corners of this forest, and I had to do it alone. I could hear the voices of those I wanted to find my way back to calling me, just beyond the edge of the woods, but they couldn’t make the journey for me. They couldn’t come in and get me. I had to get myself out.

And it seemed hopeless. These past months have been bleak. Draining. It seemed like there was no way out–like I was only wandering deeper into these endless woods.

Another thing they say: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

It’s annoying how true these stupid sayings are.

Because one day, I woke up…and the forest wasn’t as dark.

And I could see a path.

And I could see light.

And the monsters weren’t coming near me. I could sense them, lurking, watching me from the depths of the foliage. I could feel their malice. But they remained at bay. Afraid of me, perhaps? Or simply too tired to keep up the fight? I didn’t know. I didn’t care. They weren’t bothering me, and while they made me uneasy, I felt a confidence I’d thought I’d lost–if they approached me, I could defeat them.

I don’t think I’m quite out of the woods yet, but I see the trees thinning. I feel the air lightening. I see open spaces up ahead.

Maybe it’s just a meadow within the woods. A clearing where I can catch some sunlight and see the sky, even though I’ll still be lost in the woods.

Maybe it’s the entrance to a place that’s even more challenging and difficult to navigate than the forest I’ve grown so accustomed to.

In the past, I’d have slowed my pace at this point. Hesitated at the edge of the woods, wondering if it’s best to just turn back, to stay in the forest. The devil you know and whatnot.

But not now. Not today.

I am tired of the forest.

I want whatever comes next.

I am armed. I am stronger and smarter and rejuvenated in this frenzied new race for the exit.

There might be new fights, new challenges, new monsters to face, but I’m not afraid.

I want to see what comes next.

I want to see what’s beyond the forest.

I’m ready.

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