Jean-Francois shares an essay he wrote for his English 101 Course. The assignment was to write a narration of a life-changing experience:
It was after a couple of minutes standing there that I felt like I had my feet back on earth, like I was born again. “Did you see that?” My friend slapped me on the back, but I wasn’t paying attention. Instead, my focus was converged inside myself, foraging for some answers to those complicated unanswered questions. Who am I, what am I surrounded by, what am I doing here, and what has just happened to me?
In fact, I was only partially aware of the situation, because the rapid interrogation in my head continued. I was still trying to understand, why do I feel like I am drowning? I felt like there was no air; it came as a heavy humid gust of wind carrying all the sand of the sea shore. The blue sky I used to see was replaced by one so dusty and grey, like an old coal factory that spreads very concentrated smoke in the air and takes away the heavenly beautiful view of the mountains. Off in the distance, I heard people crying but I had no clue about their grief. Their voices were filled with panic and depicting a moment of so much pain, fear and hopelessness. Standing on one side, I could now see the other side of the building where my apartment was. I saw people gathered together where we used to play soccer every afternoon and in other places where there were no trees and buildings. I was wondering if they were fleeing from something. If so, what would that be? Everything seemed to mingle in my mind, I couldn’t picture what was really going on. If I were dreaming, this would be the most frightening nightmare I had ever had.
As time flew by, I started to calm myself down a little bit. “Watch out!” My friend shouted. I scarcely had time to think “What?” before I felt it again. The heavy, powerful, underground movement that makes you feel as if you’re sea-boarding and lose all your equilibrium and fall straight down. You could feel the emptiness of the underground like a balloon filled with air.
“Oh, I got it! I wasn’t dreaming!” I said to myself.
Now that I was able to acknowledge myself and my surroundings, I felt like that was the moment that I was waiting for. Like an internal positive voice that said “Go for it! Don’t go back! Take this new path!” Sometimes, I think back on the last moments of my old life: I had wanted to do something different in my life, because I was tired of the same old life. But I had no motivation. Since the earthquake happened and I lost everything that I had, I decided to put the past in the same bucket and leave it behind. Instead of going back to rescue my belongings, I walked away to find out about my family and friends. My counter was back to zero and I thought that it was the best time to try something different, like I had always wanted to do. I decided to leave the past in the past and embrace a new future.
Such a change happened like this. It was a Tuesday, January 12, 2010, at 5:50 in the afternoon. I was coming from the same old and tiring activities, which were going to school and sometimes visiting friends and family. Once home, I put my bag away and I was enjoying my favorite spot, the best spot in the whole room, facing the small white 13×5-inch TV which sat on a foot long table, where my dusty books and school papers have been for what seems like forever. We were waiting for a Mexican drama called “Frijolito,” while the smell of spaghetti was invading the whole room and spreading into the neighbor’s apartment.
Sitting on one side of the bed was my friend, his knees touching his chest, not only because the bed was so low, but also because he’s a tall guy. He’s wearing Converse yet again, just like every other day he visits me. There was another guy, my roommate, who was looking down, lacing his shoes and getting ready for his afternoon classes. Laughing! Laughing! This is what we do every time we meet. Three of us in this little room, with two beds, a bookshelf with the TV on it, and a microwave. With everything going on here, I think we need a traffic light in order to avoid a collision between us.
Suddenly, it was quiet for a couple seconds that seemed like three hours. We felt that something strange was occurring. Like we were moving, without purpose, the house was shaking. We were used to having tremors, but this was different. It gradually wobbled the building, but then became heavier.
We were all staring at each other. “Run out!” I shouted. Frantically, we were running without looking back toward the only door the apartment had. We left everything: the spaghetti was ready to eat, the TV with our episode just starting, my laptop, my books, school supplies, and my clothes. His long legs were so helpful in that situation; he was stepping and skipping the stairs while they were falling down. The poorly constructed building we were living in had no regular shape or form and I don’t think any mathematicians could have found one to explain it. It was up and down, backward, twisted, and it seems impossible to think how it became a two-floor building with a basement. It was made of walls that if you hit too hard would crumble into your hands. I felt as if there were no beams, and walls were supporting walls. We had to run out because I knew that if the house collapsed with us inside, there would be no chance of survival, as was the case for a lady in the apartment next door. I was in the middle, my friend in front and my roommate behind; we were holding hands until we got to one of the places free of trees and buildings. Here I was standing on a road with only a soaked black-grey school t-shirt, sky blue and white shoes, and blue jeans; my friend had one sandal on his foot and the other left behind, and my roommate also had only one shoe, since he was laughing more than taking the time to lace his shoes. We were all one step from death and now we were miraculously alive.
It was after a couple of minutes standing there that I felt like I was born again. I was running away from death and a past that was not acceptable. From that time, I decided to put a boundary between my new life and my old past, not to forget about it, but rather to make something different. Now, looking back to the past I had and all the opportunities that I got from leaving it behind, I can see that it was not the life I deserved, but the one I was born into. I made the right choice by starting over again on a new path.