The Sky Beneath My Feet

After nearly a lifetime of looking down on the sky, I've been forced to buckle under the weight of everyone else's world. Most people compare their lives to an uphill battle, the gravelly grade of adversity always threatening to send them tumbling back down the hillside. Mine, however, has been a topsy-turvy life. Not in the sense that everything has seemed backwards or the opposite of what it should be-it's more like receiving puzzle pieces of mislaid irony only to discover that they're a perfect fit in the context of your life. It's that feeling of flipping a coin, always calling out tails and it coming up tails every time without fail. It's something like survival-being the last tree left in the forest, then being the first one there when nature gets around to replenishing herself. It's knowing that after all those years you still sacrifice health for wisdom and success for happiness. It's knowing, above all, what prevents the sky from rising high overhead.

Living upside down is like living right side up; the only difference, as far as I can tell, is lightness. Burdens, like handfuls of pocket change, that weigh others down fall through the clouds and burn up in the atmosphere. Only the things you truly need stay with you; they grow from the ground, down towards the sky, their roots mending together all of your lifelong dreams. I felt more balanced when I was upside down than I ever have standing rightside up. Perhaps it's because I'm no longer a young man. The older I become the more difficult it is for me to accept new challenges. I suppose that's why my life has finally inverted, forcing me to stoop, even when I sit, like everyone else in the rightside up world.

Admittedly, there were times in my life when I waited for the world to right itself. It was the pessimist in me, the coward, waiting for the ground to tumble beneath my feet, upset my equilibrium, and push the sky high above my head. When life finally capsized it wasn't as disorienting as I thought it would be, but it was every bit as burdensome as my imagination led me to believe. Things began happening more slowly-each grain of sand scratching its way through the hour glass, each step in the direction of somewhere seems to lead directly to nowhere, each face, formerly illuminated by the brilliance of purpose, is fading in a twilight haze.

Before the seasons changed for the last time in my life, I would like to think I came to this realization: If everyone lived in a rightside up world it still wouldn't make everything right. I'm afraid that after my life inverted and proved to be tenaciously buoyant, there is no way to turn things upside down again. And yet what's left of the optimist in me, the fighter, is waiting for the ground to tumble beneath my feet once more, waiting for the sky to settle far below, where it will readily swallow every one of my worries. Only then will age again seem obsolete, a youth never ending, like the unfaltering radiance of a faraway star. I will be so light, so luminous, so free, that even the sky wouldn't dare come between me and my once ubiquitous youth.

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Jeffrey Tannen - 1st Place Prose Contest Art be Serena Perrone