Pathways | Teen Ink


February 11, 2022
By Anonymous

Author's note:

Life after school can be stressful, when you finally see it through you know that it is not as much to worry about as you think.

The author's comments:


Today was the type of day that really made you stop and think about your life. I woke up at four forty-five in the morning to get ready for the gym. After that, I woke up my little brother and practically had to drag him out of bed. With the car started and being fully dressed I was ready to go, but of course, we forgot one thing. We both forgot to grab the speaker on our way out the door, a great start to the day. Driving down dark empty streets in the freezing cold really makes you contemplate what exactly you’re doing with your life when you should be asleep, but this is nothing new to me. This early morning was how I started my week off, it was Monday and that meant that it was leg day. In other words, it is already the worst day of the week as is, but luckily the universe wasn’t going to let me ride this Monday out like every other one. 

We got through the workout and headed home to get ready for another day at Quest Charter Academy, where dreams are made. I know you can’t sense the sarcasm, but if you know Quest you’ll understand. I rushed to get everything done while shoving my breakfast (a hot pocket) in the microwave. I half-chewed half blew on each bite while putting my fantastically bright button up uniform shirt on. I drove my sister and I up to school, which is literally across the street, but there's no way I'm going to be a senior and still have to walk to school. As soon as school started I went into my own little world where I just get my stuff done and stay out of people's way. Doing this usually leads to my day going by a lot quicker, but this time I just couldn’t focus so the day felt like it dragged on forever. The time on my phone felt like it wasn’t moving at all every time that I looked at it, so I decided to leave it in my backpack. Lunch was the only thing I was looking forward to and of course, it was just some dry chicken sandwich that didn’t even come with mayonnaise. P.E. was going to save my terrible day and end it off right, but nothing ever goes as planned. Our class doubled in size because of wanderers that “didn’t have a class”, while most of the actual class sat down on the steps to the cafeteria.

On the bright side, I didn’t sweat through my uniform so there was a little bit less laundry for me to do when I got home. After I took my sister home and changed, I thought it was a good time to just lay down and take a nap. With the way my day was going there was no way I was going to get the chance though. As soon as my head hit the pillow my mom opened up my door and yelled up the stairs for me to come down. I jumped up because I knew she would just get more aggressive as it went on. When I got downstairs she had a whole list of things she wanted me to do that involved me actually getting dressed and leaving the house. I knew there was no point in arguing, so I got dressed and headed out.

As I was driving down the busy street I remembered my mom making fun of a psychic that has a little shop by the grocery store. I completely disregarded what she had said about her being a little, let's say unhygienic, and decided to stop at her shop. As soon as I walked in I remembered exactly what my mom was talking about. It was an almost empty shop with a single wooden table and a cheesy crystal ball in the center. It all seemed very cliche, especially once she popped out from behind a curtain of colorful beads. We quickly became acquainted with each other and had settled on the fact that I never met a psychic or even knew if I believed in that type of stuff. She decided to let me try a crystal ball reading for free, if I wanted to do more I could choose for myself afterward. 

She knew automatically that I was stressed out and asked me what the reason for it all was. After the day I had, there was no other way to go about it than to spill my day out to her. She sympathetically reached out to me and said she was going to help me find a way to ease my mind. We focused our energies on the main source of stress, my future. I looked intently at the crystal ball and watched her wave her hands like, well a crazy person. For a moment I began to doubt anything while we sat in silence, then she started to hum. This hum turned into a low whisper as if she was reading something. She told me that she saw a man in a button up shirt, short buzzed hair, and a clean pair of slacks working on a project. I assumed this was supposed to be me in college, but she began to say it was a desk job so it had to have been after that. She told me that this was supposed to be me in 10 years. Her eyes began to shift quickly as she told me to hold on for a second. There was another man that had long hair, a mustache, and multiple tattoos. He looked like he didn’t miss a day at the gym. I had no idea who she was seeing, but my parents would disown me if I had a single tattoo let alone a sleeve. She saw one final man that appeared to her, he was slim, had scraggly hair, and a beard. Apparently, he wore very thick glasses, they all seemed to be completely different people. The first man sounded like me because that is exactly what I want to do, become an engineer and work on projects where I design blueprints.

The others must've been friends of mine in the future, so I asked her what else she saw. She said that we had reached the end of the free trial. To this point I hadn’t seen anything that she had been talking about, just all the nonsense she was saying. We argued about it until I finally lost it and swiped the crystal ball off the table. Without thinking twice I smashed it against the floor of the shop. As soon as it hit the floor and shattered, I saw the images in each piece as it spread all around the shop. She started doing that little whispering thing again so I decided to let myself out. Something felt off, but there was no way I was going to let that lady get to me after she wasted my time like that. 

I went along with my day and finally got on track with the list my mom gave me. My first stop was Aldi so I could grab some groceries. I was in the middle of grabbing milk when someone whacked me with the door right next to me trying to grab some eggs. I looked up and saw a man about the same height as me that looked exactly like me, just a lot more stressed. “I am so sorry my wife is on my heels because I forgot to get groceries on my way home from work”, he said in a worried tone as if she could hear him.

“It’s fine I know how women can get”, even though I haven’t had to deal with one yet. He finally let out a sigh of relief that he quickly lost again when we finally met eyes.

“Wait, you're 18 year old me”, he exclaimed. “Oh my god we used to look so young and awake”, his face darkened.

I looked him up and down and quickly noticed the balding hair, “what happened to our hair we were going strong, our dad has a full head of hair at 60 years old”.

“Oh trust me I thought the same thing, he still has it at 70”, he let out a chuckle.

“So what do we do now as an adult”, I asked. He told me that he followed through after being accepted to Marquette University and that all of those programs Quest offered really 

helped us pursue being an engineer. “There is no way that all of those long boring programs actually paid off”. 

“I know it’s definitely crazy, but it's the truth”, he looked a lot calmer now. I told him about everything I had going on and completely forgot about the fact that he already knows all of this stuff. He ended up paying for my groceries and left me with some advice,” please remember to have some fun while all of this is going on”. I promised that I wouldn’t stress, maybe we could keep our hair, we laughed as we went our separate ways. Before I got into my car to follow along with the list I shouted out to him that it isn’t too late to keep finding ways to have fun and to maybe hit the treadmill some more. I was just looking out for myself though so it wasn’t too bad of advice.

At this point, I was ready to go back home, but I made sure to go get my mom her coffee from Starbucks. I decided to go inside because I suck at ordering coffee through the drive-thru, too many fancy words. The line was short today, only one man was in front of me. He wore an old greenish sweater that looked like it had been torn up, he was kind of lengthy so it seemed like he was hunched over. I ordered my mom's drink and took a seat towards the back of the shop. As I settled into my chair I heard the barista yelling out, “coffee for Jesus P.”

It was quick, but I didn’t question it and walked up to the counter where the guy that was in front of me had walked up and met me. We looked at each other awkwardly and put two and two together, we must have the same name. “Well, what are the odds?”, he quietly chuckled to me and the barista.

“Yeah maybe we should go off the last name next time”, we nodded as I waited for him to say his first. We waited for a minute and both said Perez almost simultaneously. “Okay now what are the odds of that”, I tried to make light of the situation. After we both took a closer look at each other I saw that we had the same mole on our foreheads. We went down a whole list of family members and even secrets that only we would know until we came to the conclusion that we were the same person. The man looked nothing like me though, he had shaggy hair and a scraggly beard. We didn’t even have the same frames, he was tall and skinny while I was a little shorter and stockier. Plus his glasses were twice as thick as mine were. “What happened to our glasses, I’m already blind as is”, I asked. 

“Well, remember why we got them?”

“Yea, we were reading too much and it strained our eyes”.

“Exactly, let’s just say we did a lot more of that”, he said as he fixed his dense glasses on his face.

“So um what do you do for a living?” I asked to get away from the glasses.

“Well I’m a writer, but I wouldn’t say it's enough for a living yet”. 

“So what are you doing here in Peoria?” 

He looked down at the ground for a little again and finally answered, “I’m living with our parents again, I couldn’t keep up with the rent in my apartment so I had to come back home”. I realized he was here for the exact same reason I was, getting our mom her coffee. 

“Well I’m glad you chose your own way, I never thought I’d have the guts to choose that path”.

“In all honesty, our parents don’t approve, but if you do become a writer you have to have a steady income outside of writing first”. I quickly took mental notes of everything he was saying because I had always secretly wanted to go off on my own and pursue writing. We talked a little bit longer before I realized it was getting late, we said our goodbyes and parted ways quickly since we were both a little awkward. His advice to me was to not be afraid of failing and needing support, which is definitely something I struggle with. My advice to him was to get more sunlight and hit the gym once in a while, once again I was just looking out for myself. 

I was ready to head home when I started to reminisce about my last rugby season. It was a good season overall, but we didn’t make the playoffs. I decided to head up to the field to reminisce a little and listen to some music. When I pulled up I saw someone running drills by themselves in the snow. The dude was tan, had long hair, and a bunch of tattoos, I could’ve sworn he was an All Black rugby player. I didn’t want to freak him out by just sitting there and watching, so I went to see what drills he was doing. As soon as we made eye contact I knew that this was the third and final version of myself that the psychic had seen. “Okay let’s cut right to the chase, I’m Jesus Perez and so are you”.

He didn’t think twice and followed along, “so you’re young me huh?”.

“Yes sir that’s me, now I have a few questions for you”.

He knew exactly what I was thinking when he answered, “I played rugby in New Zealand after playing at Lindenwood, yes our parents hate the tattoos, no they didn’t disown us, and yes I got approval to get these tribal tattoos”.

He almost hit all of the spots except one very important one, “do you still play wing, and are you trying to run a one on one?” He told me that he moved to inside center and he would run it, but he can’t risk an offseason injury. It was nice to know that we both had respect for each other in terms of rugby, but I definitely dodged a bullet with that one. We talked about rugby for hours and he even gave me some really good tips before we headed our separate ways. “Remember your time is coming man don’t rush it, just trust and enjoy the process”, he said in an inspirational tone.

“Thank you, but please don’t let us get a big head we’re always going to be a son of Mexican immigrants that settled in little ole Peoria.”

“Of course, I could never forget about the people who got me to where I am today”, he said as he patted me on the back.

When I was getting ready to take off I ended up right back in the psychic’s shop staring at a shattered crystal ball. I didn’t even remember starting the car or even coming close to leaving that parking lot. 

“So are you going to clean that up or are you going to keep staring at it like an idiot?” She was blunt, so I found the broom up against a wall and swept up all the little pieces of glass. I thanked her for the free trial and headed home to finally get some sleep, but when I got out of the car I realized my wallet was gone. I guess it wasn’t a free trial after all, I think it was worth it 

though. I walked into my house with a new sense of relief that I will turn out okay no matter what path I choose. As soon as I opened the door my mom was waiting for everything she asked for.

“Y lo que te mande hacer animal?!” (What about the stuff I sent you to do you animal?!) Not only did I completely forget about everything I had to do for my mom, but I lost my wallet in the process. This had to be the only way this long day could’ve ended.

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