This Means the Most

I’m not sure what it is that means so much to me about being in a car with them, or going grocery shopping together, or hearing their footsteps in or out of synchronization with my own. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not only hearing my own footsteps, or thinking about my own schedule, or staring at my own computer screen. Maybe it’s the body of fresh air we adopt as we trail further and further away from the city, the particles in the empty space reduced to nothing but fresh oxygen and shared words. All I know is that this means a lot to me. It reminds me of things I could’ve sworn I’d left behind in California, back when I was twenty two and didn’t schedule things two weeks in advance, when the moments I spent alone were out of necessity, and the things on my mind were what kind of beer I should pick up for my neighbors, alias best friends.

I’m sitting in my apartment, a small box below the Williamsburg bridge carefully designed to maximize use of space. A full loft bed making room for a desk and rug underneath, a tiny couch to the side with a multifunctional wardrobe next to it, and fairy lights lining the white walls like vines aside a brick building, signature of any heartwarming interior. The door buzzes and I jump with joy, swinging open the army-weight concrete door. My friends enter and help me with my bags. One for myself, one full of provisions for all of us, and one overflowing iwth a pillow and blanket suffice for four nights of summer slumber in open air. Route: Catskill Mountains.

We pile into the car and my heart begins to bounce. I’VE MISSED THIS SO MUCH. A car full of friends, leaving to go somewhere else. I could relive that sentence like Groundhog Day and not yelp a single complaint. I demand control over the car speakers, sending magical pieces of data from the backseat to the front. Our road trip tunes commence, and we begin snaking through the boroughs of New York. I shout here and there, dance to the tunes we share with the rest of the city through rolled down windows, and smile at pedestrians, a brave few who smile back. The best part about New York City might be leaving it.

We spend the next four days together. Grocery shopping together. Building and sustaining a fire together. Adjusting to the magnification of life the woods presents in contrast to the city: spiders, mosquitoes, beatles, worms, more spiders. We wake up with the sunlight, snooze in, and open our eyes to each other, the creek flowing below us, and streams of sunlight filtered through fresh bark. We eat hot dogs, drink beers, coin inside jokes and talk about life. We hike up 4,050 feet of rock and dirt, perch above the clouds, hike down the wrong way, hike back up, and hike down the right way. We laugh desperately as our knees tremble and collectively reclaim our energy through gorged meat and sliced potatoes at a nearby diner. We sip on tea made from mushrooms, frolic in the stream below, stomp on the earth with our bare feet, make friends with dragonflies and fake friends with mosquitoes, and remember that we, too, are simple inhabitants of the earth. The dust displaced by the legs of an ant are akin to the footprints left behind by our steps. We fall silent as we watch a bear cub prance through the shrubs on the other side of the creek. We listen to music and lay in chairs, say “I love you” to each other a handful of times, perhaps not fully realizing that we’re also saying it to ourselves. We venture out to an art museum, smile at the colors and shapes, meant to capture what we’ve had these past four days. Life, as it is.

There’s a lot I don’t know about. I know this because I’m always trying to understand things better. I have a lot of questions about us, our experiences, our place in the universe, and maybe these will never be answered. Maybe that’s not the point. But there’s also a lot I do know. Whenever I’m outdoors, traveling for an extended time, with people in close environments or without distractions, I know.

I know that time with each other is the best thing we can do for ourselves. I know that nothing really matters, these monetary numbers or vocational titles, the goals and tangibles we attempt to forecast our lives with… None of it matters besides the intimate moments we spend together, time with and for each other, gazing upon the earth and seeing it for what it is. An emotional, quite magical merging of stories, elements, and life. I know that it’s easy to forget all of this in concrete jungles or behind office doors, the ages of 22, 23, 24, 25… It seems, even, that we can still forget it no matter how old we get.

So maybe that’s why this means so much. These small moments spent together, with them, when I feel most like myself. When there’s not a mirror around to confirm I am who I look like, or internet to confirm I am who I post like, or daily goals and benchmarks to confirm I am who I aspire to be. Because in the small moments that we set aside to give our full attention to nature, our friends, or ourselves rather than an a future idea of all of these things, we can remember: We are who we are right now. As fervently capable of cherishing and celebrating life as we’ll ever be.

The water in the rivers flow, spiders crawl in between fluorescent green leaves, people laugh, friends fall in love, and families form every minute that passes us by. The moments where we pause to see it all, let go of our inner dialogues to live it, these are the ones that mean the most.