I watched a man walk his golden retriever past the window and then as someone talked on their phone while crossing the street, ignoring the oncoming traffic. My foot bounced and my fingers played their beat on my knee. The constant buzz in my brain ate at my thoughts and I frowned as I tried to extinguish the static noise. The woman on her phone nearly got hit by a car and started to cuss out the driver, waving her hands around in the air. Someone then passed the window wearing a green backpack and in an instant I was back on the road. I could smell the trees, taste the morning air. For an second, I was reliving the feeling of how I felt after walking 25 miles and how it felt to take a shower every night to wash it all off. A dry feeling crept into my throat and I became thirsty, mainly for chocolate milk. The idea of how much chocolate milk I drank in the span of 100 days made me smile. “Jordan… Jordan, are you even listening?!?”
I snapped my head to the voice and tore my eyes from the window. A severe looking woman sat across from me, a very concerned look on her face. “You haven’t even heard a word I’ve been saying… Have you?” she asked, although she didn’t sound mad. I looked around the office, which was extremely cluttered and didn’t match her conservative look. My eyes caught sight of the window and for a moment my mind threatened to wander off again. I shook my head and then looked at her. “Um.. No… I’m sorry.”
She looked me over for a few seconds, then smiled, capping her pen and tucking a notepad in the drawer to her left. “Usually when I interview people for a job position they at least have the courtesy to pretend to be interested in it…” She smiled again. I opened my mouth to apologize again but she laughed and put her hand up. “Don’t worry about it, Jordan.” She then leaned back in her chair and studied me some more. I blushed and began to play with the bottom of my tie, rolling it up like those old fruit rope snacks. “You know, I had no intentions of hiring from the moment I saw your resume, but I just wanted to meet you.” she said, watching my tie roll up and then unravel itself.
“No?” I asked, unsure if that was a compliment or not.
She didn’t answer and continued to look over me. She then asked, “Do you even want to work in a job like this, Jordan? Inside. Behind a register. Dealing with people?”
“Uh… Well. Lets say it’s not my dream job, but I’ll do what needs to get done and this…”
“No.” she interrupted. “Doing what needs to be done is what normal people do. But I don’t really think you’re normal… Do you? After this walk that is?”
I thought about the question. The walk definitely changed me. But not in the way as I thought it would. When people go off to war or are stranded in the wild alone, something happens to them and they change. But that’s not the change I experienced. I didn’t go through a trial or tough times. I didn’t do anything that I didn’t want to. Instead it opened up this… thing… inside me. This, potential. I realized that we’re all capable of doing huge things that we never dreamed we’d do, if only we’d take those first steps. And that idea has been eating away at my brain for the past month. What do I do with myself now? I’m stuck in some kind of limbo between my walk life and a normal life, unable to slip into one or the other. I shrugged and said, ” I feel like the walk ruined me, when it comes to things like this…”
She laughed and nodded. “Not ruined you,” she said. “Just changed you. For better or worse is up to you to decide.” I raised my eyebrows and she laughed again and then thought about how she wanted to say it. Finally she said, “You’re a wolf… In a dogs world. And to chain you to a desk or indoors is only asking for trouble. The moment I saw your resume I knew that I couldn’t hire a person who just walked across the country to work at my business. Be indoors all day. Work behind a counter or desk. Dealing with customers in setting you don’t even like. No, it’s not fair to you.”
“I need a job though.” I told her, my voice shaking a little. “There are bills to pay! I have so many student loans that I’d need to get 3 jobs just to pay for them all!”
She laughed, nodded and then became serious again. “You can tame a wolf, but it’ll never truly be a dog…” I laughed and so did she. “Alright,” she said. “Enough of these dumb metaphors. The fact is Jordan, you’re at an important crossroad in your life. You need to either try your best to come back to normal life, work a normal job, and live that life… Or you need to “take your first step” all over again. Rise up to what you want to be, and be it! Some people may tell you that you can have both, but you can’t. You just turn into a middle-aged person who daydreams at their desk all day about what they’d like to be doing. And if they ever do pluck up the courage to follow their dreams, many wonder why they didn’t just do it in the first place. I’m not saying one’s better than the other. And I’m not saying if you decide to tone down your life for now you’ll forever be stuck in the “normal life rut”… I’m just saying I can tell that you’re not ready to let go of who the walk turned you into, but you’re not rising to meet your new potential.”
For the first time in the month that I’ve been home my mind stopped buzzing and I could think clearly. I was taken back that she knew all this about me, that this job interview had somehow turned into a pivotal moment in my life where a huge life decision would be presented.
“So…” she continued. “It’s not that difficult… You just need to ask yourself… Are you a dog? Or are you a wolf?”
* * * *
I sat outside, picking pieces of grass and watching clouds. I was thinking about the “interview” I had just experienced and about what she had said. I then started thinking about the walk. Memories flooded back and my hands clenched clumps of grass, as if they would disappear if I didn’t hold on tight. I missed walking. I missed meeting new people everyday and the adventure of the unknown. I clung to the idea of meeting my brother again, or to revisiting some of the places I liked the most. My body ached to walk so more and my mind yelled for stimulation. But as a cloud turned from a turtle into a fish overhead, I realized that my inability to accept that the walk is done is whats keeping me in this murky limbo. I was clinging onto the past and to the ideas of my memories, so now, no new ones were being made. And the longer a person goes without making new memories, the harder it is to stop living in the old ones. My past was once my future and to stay there would have been to deny this moment… It would have denied what could be. With that thought, I felt my mind grow lighter and some weight disappear off my chest. What could be. The idea that the whole world was out there, waiting for me to do something with it. Now all that was left was to choose my path. To answer the question that she had asked. Dog or wolf. I then realized that I already had answered the question, the moment I took my first step back in March.