You can tell I’ve been feeling down lately from my face looking more drained than usual or sometimes I just hint at it by saying “I’ve been feeling down lately.” What could I possibly be sad about? I mean, it’s the summer. It’s the summer before senior year of college. It’s the summer before I lose the false structure and direction of primary-tertiary education. It’s the summer before really growing up.
Me, as six-year-old: I don’t want to grow up. Adults have too much responsibility.
Mom: … Who’s going to tell her?
It’s the summer and I’ll never have as many friends as I do now. It’s the summer and universal milestones will be even more unfulfilling.
But hey, it’s the summer and I can take mildly cold showers.
A couple weeks ago, I realized I really needed to get away from my own thoughts, so I placed an unreasonable amount of hope of feeling less hopeless into a day trip my friends had been talking about for a while. They wanted to visit Enchanted Rock, which is a pink granite mountain a little over an hour out of Austin. So I booked a weekend trip to Austin from Dallas despite the fact that I’d be going back (Dallas to Austin) for school in about ten days.
Hanging out with friends would be fun. Maybe exercise would help, too. I’ve always thought people tell you to exercise when feeling sad so that you remember all suffering is relative.
Yesterday, my friends and I piled into the car at 5AM to catch the sunrise on the road. We stopped to eat meringue pie for breakfast—at that ungodly hour, anything goes—and made it to Enchanted Rock around 9.
Ticket lady: How many in the car?
Friend 1: Six. Well, four now.
Me, out of earshot: I know you’re referring to the two who slept in, but that sounds like we ate them.
The rock was a close walk from the visitor center. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult a climb, as Friend 2, who’d been to Enchanted Rock before, said it’d only take half an hour. I’d climbed for much longer as a kid, when my grandfather regularly tricked me into climbing several kilometers by lying “we’re almost there” whenever I asked how much further we had to go.
The first five minutes proved me wrong. The incline was unexpectedly steep. My breaths came in quick heaving gasps, possibly because I’d been sitting at a desk for the past few weeks. My chest burned. Rivulets of sweat tumbled down my forehead like how I imagined I would fall down the mountain if I lost balance. My feet seemed to be angled at 50 degrees.
I overhead a couple women nearby saying the air was getting thinner and that was why it was harder to breathe. Friend 1 and I exchanged glances, sure she was just trying to make us feel better.
Two shirtless, shiny-chested forty-year-old men jogged past us toward the top. We’d passed them at the foot of the mountain when coming from the visitor’s center.
At last, we made it to the peak. The surface was relatively flat, so the four of us sat in a small circle to catch our breaths.
We put on some music, except for some indefensible reason I still used Spotify Free, so we listened for a bit to what might’ve been a back-to-school ad as well as some recommended tunes. The sun really came out at this point, the rays so searing I put on a jacket and ignored the strands of hair gluing themselves to the curve of my jaw.
The top of Enchanted Rock and the view from it were pretty much what you’d expect looking down from, well, a large rock. Pretty, but that was it. I felt like there both should and shouldn’t be more to it, like it was exactly what I’d imagined yet some core part of me felt unfulfilled.
But, examining that feeling, there wasn’t really a reason for it. I was just wanting more, like I always do, even though there was literally no way we could’ve gone further from there. And maybe that’s why it always seems to me like there’s nowhere to go but down.
My friends and I hung out, laughed, took a couple of pictures until we couldn’t stand the heat, and then decided to head back.
When I turned, I caught sight of the two jogging men from earlier. Two women greeted them, and the men said it was their now fourth time jogging up the mountain.
Sometimes, middle-aged men will summarily beat you, a healthy 21-year old. Sometimes, fit people who’ve been training for a while will trounce you, for whom jogging Enchanted Rock was never a goal. Sometimes, you remember it’s not a race.
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