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It's Our Turn: Walking by Myself

Ever since I can remember, I have always loved walking in people's footsteps.

My whole life has been a big game of follow-the-leader.

In elementary school I would follow my classmates in line when we went to class. I followed my brother into swimming and I followed my parents every time we left the house.

Up until a few weeks ago, all I have had to do was follow.

But without having to look which direction I was going in or how fast I was walking, my head has been down most of my life.

I would just have to look at the footprints in front of me to see where I was going and if I got lost all I would have to do was stretch my hands out and something would be there to cling to.

Up until a few weeks ago, that is how it was.

But then, one day, surprisingly, it wasn't like that anymore.

When I reached out, I found that I had nothing to grab hold of.

My mother's shirt didn't fall into my hands, nor my brother's jacket twist into my fingers. A few weeks ago I looked up to realize I was all alone.

I have been taught that life has a set path to follow: high school, college, job, retirement and death. And with each change there is a new step.

But as I slowly reached up to this next step in life's staircase, I realized that I won't be able to stand in lines anymore like the previous step allowed me to.

Now I stand in a line by myself. I am the front, the side and the back. I don't have anyone to follow nor anyone to tell me where to go.

Sure, all my life I've been learning to walk, but I've never had to walk by myself and now I am being hurled forward through this door while thousands of new possibilities open in front of me.

One of these paths is safe, a road traveled by most, but there are also roads less traveled - paths that challenge and intrigue me, like joining the Peace Corps and traveling to Third World countries, or becoming a sous chef for a small bistro in Paris.

Right now, I can only see a small glimpse of these paths, the majority of them are hidden from my sight - so how can I choose one without the certainty of where it will lead?

I have become accustomed to my lines, and accustomed to having someone in front of me making these hard decisions for me. For the last 18 years that is how it has been.

When I was younger, I used to walk behind my brother in the snow. His shoe prints would be huge and leave imprints for me to see. My feet would fit perfectly into his footprints so no snow would get into my shoes and no one would know that I was there.

If we messed up, no one would see my footprints. If we went the wrong way, no one could see that I went the wrong way too.

But now I'm the one making the footprints.

It was nice not having to decide where I was walking; it was nice not getting snow inside my shoes. But I guess I always knew I couldn't follow someone my whole life.

One day I will get a bunch of snow in my boots and have to deal with the cold numbness that follows it. One day I won't have a brother to follow but will have to decide the path for myself.

One day is today.

I am not, and never will be, ready to graduate from one step and push my way up to the next. But inevitably, I'll walk through one of these doors, and continue walking forward. Sure, I'll look back and regret a decision from time to time, but there is no redo button in life. There is no traveling backward in time.

I thought growing up was supposed to be fun, but I miss my back and my front. I miss my line. And I miss the big footprints I used to walk in.

Now, the snow lies untouched in front of me, the only footprints being the small ones behind me.