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Tired, cold, hungry, in pain. My feet have torn through my shoes and have cuts and sores from hitting the tuff road. These once clean fitting clothes have turned into rags that are shedding off my body. From the time I started this journey; my smooth, young skin has become ruff, grey and cold. My once long and soft chestnut hair has knotted up into a grey nest. My feminine features have sagged and loosened. My once fit and peaceful body has tired and become incredibly painful to live in. This journey for purity and everlasting youth has taken my youth from me. Years spent on this road searching and waiting to taste from the desired fountain. Years wasted growing old on a road that has no end. Being a naive child, I believed the village tale of the winding road that lead to the silk water that when sipped by a selfless soul, gave them eternal youth.
The soul would be rewarded with eternal beauty, and everlasting peace. Any brave traveler that heard of this local tale would set off on the winding road through the forest. They would leave determined to reach the fountain before dusk. They spoke of returning stronger than ever. But not one of these travelers ever returned to the village. As a child, I believed they were leading happy, strong, eventful lives. As a tired old woman on this miserable road I realize the truth. Those foreigners never reached the fountain and neither will I. The selfish act of setting out on this journey already disqualifies you from gaining eternal youth. This road goes on so long that your body becomes brittle and weak. Your soul leaves your body to rot on this road forever. You waste the youth you are given to live on without growing old.
The forest punishes your selfishness by creating the illusion of a short journey. The reality of this road is that illusion is imprinted in your mind. Even after traveling down this path for a while you still believe that the silk taste of eternity is within reach. Your mind twists and turns around and plays these terrible tricks on you. When you’re on this road for days, months, years or decades; you still see the fountain ahead. You push common sense aside to believe in the illusion. Even when age has caught up with you and you’ve reached death’s door; that illusion has corrupted your mind. You feel that if you stopped now you’d lose what you’ve spent so much time searching for. I will waste no more time. This illusion will no longer take my life from me. If I am to die, it will be in my village with my people. My soul will not be given to this forest. I have already surrounded my life to it.
My death will be in peace. I kneel to the ground and close my tired eyes. I say an old prayer from my village and ask God to take me. At this moment, I see a light shining ahead. I open my eyes expecting to come face to face with my maker, instead I am beside the desired fountain. I am confused and dumbfounded. Not only am I alive but my journey has actually ended. This fountain exists and the key to eternal youth and beauty is at my fingertips. This is what so many for centuries have set out to achieve. What I have wasted my life just to see if the tale was real and it is. This magical water will give me back my life but what kind of life would that be. A life of no growth. After being on this road for so long I’ve learned more about the life I want to live then eternality could give me. I want to be at peace. I turn away from the fountain and look towards the end of the forest at my small Village. My home, something I thought I’d never see again.
The desire for youth I once had has turned into a desire for what I gave up. The chance to grow old in this beautiful and peaceful village. The chance to fall in love and create a family. The chance to watch them grow into amazing people. I may have missed my chance to have a life worth living but I won’t miss the chance to die among the people I love and the home I love. I walk down the road again but this time away from eternal youth. This new journey home is a shorter one. A hop, a skip and a jump and I am breathing that clear air again. The dark forest is behind me as I step into the sunshine. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. As I release my breath, my lids open and I feel as if all my pain has blown away with the wind.
I look down at my hands that were once grey and stiff and see color flowing back through them. My ripped clothing and broken souls in my shoes have been put together again. My hair that has aged along with my body has been restored. My understanding of this tale has given me another chance to live my life to the fullest. I step further into my village with my heart full of gratitude. I kneel down at the church and let the long-awaited tears roll down my face. I look up to the sky and say thank you to God for listening to my prayer. For knowing my sorrow and showing my selfish soul mercy. This second chance at life is one I know the cost of. It’s one I will not waste. Youth is worth nothing if you do nothing with it.