Tales From the Keystone State: The Morning of May 22nd, 2016

My life changed on the morning of May 22nd, 2016.

I was back home for the summer after my first year of college, getting used to being home.

The night before had been pretty eventful. A party had been thrown at one of my friend’s houses. There were about ten to twelve people at the party, and about six or seven of us remained the next morning. One friend had been throwing up all night, most of us were hungover, and the rest were asleep.

My friend and I had been up all night in one of the bedrooms talking and laughing about deep topics and our unpredictable futures. We said multiple times that we should try to go to sleep, but when the darkness eventually left the sky from outside the bedroom window it ended up not even being worth it.

It was about six in the morning at that point, and our friend came into our room. We talked with him for a minute, and then we decided to go get breakfast somewhere (as was tradition after these sort of parties we’d occasionally throw). We liked getting breakfast because it not only cured hangovers, but we found it was always a good way to get together one last time before we went on with our separate lives. On this day, we decided to go to Eat ’n Park.

Nobody else seemed to want breakfast besides the three of us. Most people from the previous night had left, were too hungover, or were asleep. So, the three of us went on our way.

I walked out to my car with my two friends behind me, feeling drowsy, hungover, and a bit dewy.

Like most early mornings outside after a long night of partying or staying up all night, there was something magical about it. The fog, the crisp air, the eerie earthy glow to one’s vision: these wee hours of the morning are a special time that one doesn’t get to experience all too often.

The three of us got into my car, which was a small 2007 blue Toyota Prius. I started the car, put my seat belt on, and put the AUX cord into my phone. It took me a few seconds to decide on what music to play. It was kind of an impulsive decision, but I felt like it would perfectly fit with what everyone was feeling, both physically and emotionally at the time. The music I chose was the Vince Guaraldi Trio on shuffle. In other words, it was the soothing sound of the jazz music most people have probably heard in those old Charlie Brown cartoons.

That twenty minute drive to the diner was one of the most peaceful and serene moments of my entire life. The three of us said nothing at all. I think we were all thinking the same somber, calm thoughts. The morning weather was just the right amount of cool.

We cruised through the light fog with all four windows down. As I drove, and the calm jazz music blared from my car’s speakers, we all looked out at the empty streets and the little homes on either side of the highway where everyone was still sound asleep. We usually didn’t see our home this unpopulated and this quiet. It was like some sort of ghost town.

Right at seven in the morning, we pulled into the empty mall parking lot where the Eat ’n Park was and we got out of the car. We ended up being the very first people to be served that day. We got ourselves some breakfast, and just talked.

Afterwards, we paid the bill, and then I dropped both of my friends off at their homes. On the way back to my own home, I played some more calming jazz music with the windows down, seeing the world as if I was its only inhabitant.

I eventually arrived back at my parents’ house and managed to sneak upstairs into my room without waking anyone. My parents and brother were still asleep. I rolled into bed and slept for a few hours. I woke up that afternoon, feeling re-energized.

It was only later that me and my friends agreed that what seemed like a simple and uneventful drive from our friend’s house to an Eat ’n Park was a turning point in all of our lives and radiated with significance.

One of my friends has said that this moment marked the end of his teenage years and ushered in what he considered to be adulthood. He says that he will go senile, he will forget about his entire life, but he will remember that moment forever. My other friend says he still thinks about that moment nearly every day.

When the chemicals are firing off in my brain as I’m dying, causing me to relive my entire life again, that morning will be one of the moments I cherish the most.

There was something cosmic about that morning. Something in me shifted. It felt like some omnipresent being was watching us from above. Something that confirmed the fact that I was a conscious, living being on this planet.

It was one of those moments that made me realize that no matter what happened in my future, everything was going to be okay one way or another and that people loved me. Moments like this reaffirm the idea that there is value in staying alive for as long as one can to create as many significant moments as you can before you die.

It also made me realize that my life was headed in a different direction and that I was growing up. I was no longer a teenager or a high schooler, and whatever invisible force that was out there was telling me to savor magical moments like these for as long as I could.

I think in the back of our minds during that drive we knew that our lives were changing rapidly, and that moment was probably going to be one of the last times we would feel like young adults with barely any responsibilities.

And like many other special pensive and peaceful moments that have occurred in my life, it felt like no one else was living on Earth besides myself and the people around me.

Back to the night after the party, when my friend and I were talking about deep existential topics in the early morning, I apparently said something about not really liking where I was in life and where I was situated in college at the time. I didn’t even know if I liked what I was majoring in. I was scared for myself, and for what the future would bring.

A couple years later though, I was talking about this story with the same friend. He mentioned our conversation, and how I said in that moment that I was feeling uneasy about the future. When he mentioned this to me, I hadn’t even remembered saying that I was afraid at all.

The unknown nature of the future and the loss of the past are perhaps humanity’s greatest existential fears, but there are moments in life that affirm the notion that it’s okay to let go, to enjoy the present, and that it’s alright to not know everything that is yet to happen next.

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