There's never enough oxygen in this world.
No I swear to you, for a split second every so often, the world runs out of air. I think this happens more often than we realize, and most times it feels like it’s gone missing for longer than just a second. As if there's not enough space, not enough crispness in the air to make you feel like you’re alive anymore.
And I hold it.
This oxygen-less space that I’m somehow still existing in without breathing. I hold that breath until I am home.
It’s not unusual for life to be crazy, and hectic, and chaotic. It goes by so quickly that sometimes we forget to breath, and to take that moment to feel the air fill our lungs, and remind us that we are in fact existing, and this is the only chance we will be getting.
And there’s something so therapeutic about finding yourself, and that space to breathe, on the forgotten back roads outside of town.
I discovered these back roads, and this mobile style of therapy, my sophomore year of high school. I drive, and I don't know where I'm going, but there's this ache in my gut that says "Don't go home just yet." So I listen. I pride myself in knowing these roads like the back of my hand. It’s like a map of memories that were created on my own terms. My own territory remaining untouched until I skirt closer to the edge, only to discover that the roads I know so well continue, even when I’m not there. That I could go for miles and miles and still find my way back home.
These Columbus-like expeditions have occurred on a multitude of occasions. There was one time during summer before my senior year of high school started, that I can recall specifically. It was warm out, the kind where you don't need air conditioning, only the windows rolled down to be comfortable. I had just gotten back from getting a haircut, and it seemed like such a shame to waste all the oxygen around me. So I drove, all the way as west as I could go without getting to the extreme west, and then back again. Windows down and The Heist playing in the background. My hair was a tangled mess, and my throat was raspy from singing so hard, but it didn't matter, because at least I was breathing.
Another time, when it was grey out. The kind of grey that isn't just heavy in the sky, but the kind that you can feel it in the way the air floats by the wayside of the windows. It matched the mood. I was drowning, and it was one of the moments that I had been holding my breath way too long again. I drove away to find a place where it wasn't so hard to breath and it wasn't so hard to think. It was easy to just drive, and let the oxygen flow to your brain where it could replace the clutter and confusion of vacuum sealed space around you.
It shouldn't be this hard to breath sometimes.
The other time happened the summer after my freshman year of college. My sister and I felt like being reckless and wanted to storm chase. There’s something so completely enthralling about driving into the storm head on, and knowing exactly about what you’re about to get yourself into. You feel the temperature in the air drop, and watch as the lighting and thunder quicken their pace the closer you get, but then at the last second, you’re able to flip the car around and run from the exact situation you put yourself into. You watch the chaos behind you fall into the rear view mirror as you pull into the drive way and wait out the storm in the safety of your home.
If only all life’s predicaments were that easily solved.
"There's nothing a little fresh air won't fix." My grandpa told me this once when he was watching me on a sick day. I had pneumonia and wanted nothing more than to go outside on the first nice day of Nebraska spring. My grandma scolded him when he eventually let me go, but to this day I think it was ultimately the right decision. My sick lungs weren't breathing in the sick air if they were outside.
Have you ever thought about oxygen? I mean really thought about it. It’s a beautiful thing really. It's one of the few things that will never run out us in this lifetime. Everything else does. My grandpa ran out of it one day, and someday I will too, but that won't be because oxygen ran out on me. It will because I ran out on it. So I don't suggest missing the opportunity to ever be surrounded by it.
I find that these moments exist in their purest form late at night, and you won't be able to find them in the city. There are too many cars and people and cement sidewalks for there to be enough oxygen for everyone. Someone is always holding their breath, waiting for test results, exam results, business deals to be made. But the best moments, the moments where you are the only person for miles, and there’s no reason to hold your breath, are out there. They exist in the too far east, and too far west, too far north and too far south. In my moments, I can only see the orange lights of my dash, and if I'm lucky enough to be too far out, somewhere the stars and satellites are the only things blinking away at me. No more streetlights, no more headlights, only star lights, and the occasional gleam from a reflector perpendicular to the road. It's in that moment that the fear kicks in. It's a beautiful kind of fear though. I'm alert, I'm alive. I'm aware of everything around me, I know it exists, but all I can see are the yellow dashes down the middle of the road. I begin to feel lost, like I'm not just too far somewhere, but that I’ve hit the extreme. The blackness swallows the road map in my head, and I think about how small I am, and how I think that I know so much of the world, but the map in my head of the "too far roads" only go for so long, and there still a lot out that that's uncharted to me. It's me and the satellites and the oxygen flowing in my head, and, if I can be patient enough to wait out the fear, I am greeted with a few moments of complete clarity. You can learn a lot when you feel small. When it's just you and oxygen, and everything else that you can't see, but you keep breathing anyways. and I keep driving; hitting the almost too extreme, before turning back.
Inhale, exhale, repeat.
It's here. I find my oxygen.
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