Out of the Woods

Recently heard the new song by Taylor Swift and it has been stuck in my head ever since, with the chorus looping almost nonstop during my run yesterday. “Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet?” Oh, Taylor. So catchy. It actually complimented the motion of running quite nicely though.

At the end of her music video for the song, Taylor exits a line of trees, walks up to herself on the beach, then reaches out and touches her own shoulder. Text flashes across the screen. “…she found herself…

Watching it, I was reminded of a dream I had as a teenager.

In the dream, I sat toward the back of a school bus that made its way along a winding mountain road, gazing out the window at evergreens and aspen trees when something caught my eye. A girl about my age was running alongside the bus! How was she keeping up? She suddenly veered off the road and down an embankment, disappearing into the woods. I got off the bus to follow. Rich colored leaves blanketed the damp ground, a soft cushion under my feet. It was quiet except for my footsteps.

I came to a clearing with a pond. The girl was standing there at the edge of it and staring at the opposite side, her back to me. I expected her to turn around when she heard me coming, but she didn’t move, not even when I stopped right next to her. After a moment, I reached out and took her hand. She still didn’t move. Her eyes were fixed forward. She had no idea I was there.

Disappointed, I stood there with her in the silence, not sure what else to do. Then, unexpectedly, her hand squeezed mine. Some part of her knew I was there. And wanted me to stay.

The next day I told my family about the dream around the breakfast table, before catching the bus off to school. My mom smiled, “You know who she was, right?” I smiled back, feeling wise. “She’s me!”

Are we out of the woods? Are we out of the woods? Are we out of the woods?

Taylor sang on repeat in my head as I ran down the dirt road yesterday, California oaks dancing in the breeze, early morning sunlight glinting off green hills. There was nobody else around. It was just me. “Are we in the clear yet?” It felt good to be there, part of nature’s dance, moving my body and doing this running thing that brings me closer to who I want to be.

With a few 5Ks under my belt, I’m currently training for my first Half Marathon and dreaming of going even bigger. Developing into a better version of me, one step at a time. “Are we in the clear yet?” Running through the canyon, thinking back to the dream I had some fifteen years ago, a sob grabbed my chest as I was hit by the realization that I’m that girl now. The runner.

I didn’t find her.

I became her.

(“In the clear yet, good.”)

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