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The path we call life

Kaylee Ernst

"Collage of Tree"

Anna Hurning

DeWitt, Iowa. Population: 5, 215. Born and raised, this is where I call home. Many grow up, live, and die here. Me, I am just living. What does living truly mean, though? Is it the beating of your heart, the oxygen you inhale, or the sights you see? To me, it is the road we walk on and the paths we take. Not the physical aspect like the dirt, concrete, or gravel. But the decisions we choose and the choices we make that determine how and what our lives are going to be like. The road I walk on in life is full of many things, and that is what keeps me living.

When we are born our life begins with a single breath, but where does that first breath take us? It is the start of a long journey on the path. Curiosity allows us to venture off. Everyone's path is so different there is no predicting what lies ahead. 

Like the bike path I walk through, God gave me ups and downs early on. Some twists and turns led me back to where I started, and some new turns took me to beautiful places I have never seen before or knew existed. 

As I twist my way through the path, I see branches cut before me, opening up new directions. People walked through this path in their lives before me. They had fought to clear the path, so it is not as difficult for me to get through.

Footprints led me on the course but eventually started to fade, leaving me to decide which way to go next—left or right? That is the legitimate question. The hypothetical question is: do I choose the faded path that leads to more risk, more setbacks, and more choices to make? Or do I stick to the right, the safe path in which I can follow in the footsteps of someone else’s decisions, someone else's path in life?

I peer over to the path on the left. A long tree branch stretches over the dry dirt trail. Brown fuzzy vines I had never before seen twist around it, drawing me in more. Ahead I see vivid shades of greens. The future looks bright but is it worth the risk since I do not know what lies ahead? 

A slender brown creature comes out from the path. It is so free and happy. Its tail is bushy and long; it allows the brown animal to almost double in length. The small squished face seems sweet, especially with its big brown eyes looking out at me. It stops as if it is waiting for me. As I watch the bushy-tailed creature, I realize it has to zigzag its way through life to survive. For the greatest reward, I must risk something great. So I follow the squirrel and take the left path.

As the hills and bumps get larger and the path seems to double in size, I begin to wonder what it would be like if I chose another way. It is too late to go back; there is no changing the past. 


I come upon a hill. The hill is so tall and steep that there is no seeing where it leads. The trees that surround me tower over me like skyscrapers. I take in a deep cool breath of the fresh untouched air surrounding me. The squirrel who was previously my guide has disappeared back into the trees. I am once again left alone with a decision. My intuition is pounding in my head to the same rhythm as my heart. Don’t give up, it’s telling me. So I don’t. I muster up all my strength and climb up the hill and around the trees. I keep listening to the voice in my head, stick to it, don’t give up. To be as free and happy as the squirrel, you must zigzag your way through life.

The free zigzag spirit I have inherited from the creature has led me to beautiful and priceless rewards and memories to tell. The beauty of the oranges, pinks, and yellows allows me to forget how bad the path was to get me there. 


Yes, there were shorter and more accessible paths I could have taken. However, those paths would have led me to lesser rewards. They would not have taught me the lessons I needed to bypass the hills I had to climb. There is beauty found within a struggle. Life is about survival. The only way to live free is to zigzag through and not take the straight and easy path. Choose the battles you are given—don’t run from them. 

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