The prompt was:
I should have read the contract.
I didn’t know how good I had it. Well, it’s far too late, now. Isn’t that how it always goes? Hindsight is twenty-twenty…I think that’s what they say. Why is that? Why couldn’t I see things the way they truly were, rather than through my ignorant, rebellious, angst-filled teenage filter?
My economics teacher (by far the only person who cared about me) would be kicking me right now if she would have known what had gone through my head. But I couldn’t help it. It just happened that way.
I was at the bottom of the well. Rock bottom, to be exact, though I couldn’t reach that bottom; I was treading water and it was churning rough. Life kept throwing wave after wave over my head, pushing me beneath the surface. I was drowning.
Stress, like water, is a life necessity. We physically and mentally can not survive without it. As it turns out, there is a such thing as good stress. I never realized that. I was so engulfed in my petty drama and the darkness I surrounded myself with that I never stopped to appreciate the motivation and drive that some things have to offer.
I wanted to be free. I wanted out of my parents’ house, away from the yelling, and the beating, and the restless nights. I wanted to fly far, far away, as high as the sky and straight into the sunset. I wanted to run and hide, change my name and my hair, separate myself from the life I couldn’t stand, the life that seemed to hold a mutual hatred for my existence. I just wanted a way out.
I should have thought about what it would have taken to obtain that goal. Used those requirements to fuel myself, to get where I wanted to go. To be who I wanted to be.
I should have listened when people told me that it’s not like that forever. The people who tease me and bully me will not be there the rest of my life. High school is literally the hardest, worst years of your life, in most cases. Everyone says they wish they could go back to high school—but they weren’t talking about going back because they loved it. They wanted to fix things, to yell at their teenaged selves, to do right by their talents and gifts. They wanted to apologize to those they had hurt and kick their no-good ‘friends’ to the curb. They wanted to be better. They had regrets to remedy and classes to attend. No one ever told me those things.
If I had looked on the bright side, I would have seen all the great things in my life. I would have realized that all the pushing to do well in school was setting me on a fast-track to a good college. I would have noticed that I was actually considered attractive. I would have understood that I had surrounded myself with negative people, bad influences, drug addicts, and self-absorbed, opinionated people. I should have seen it all. I should have looked up at the sky every once in a while. I should have listened to my heart instead of my ears.
Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. I hate that phrase, but it’s so accurate. I can look back and think of all the ‘what if’s but it doesn’t help here and now.
Someone once told me that life was a contract. What they didn’t tell me is what that meant. When I was born, I was underage. My parents are the ones who signed for me, at least at first. They agreed that, in exchange for my life, they would feed me, clothe me, protect me, and teach me. That’s their bargain. My life for their time.
When I’m old enough to sign my first rental agreement, I’m stepping up and taking control of my own contract with life. I’m saying, “Hey, life, I’m going to live you. I’m going to do things to pay for this roof over my head, to earn my own shelter.” When I get a job, I’m signing on another page. I’m saying, “Okay, life, I’m going to live you. I’m going to work for my currency, and that’s what I need to interact with other humans, and it’s how I’ll earn my own food, clothes, and protection.” When I sign a marriage license, I’m signing on a whole new amendment to the initial contract. I’m saying, “Alright, life, I’m going to take care of another person in much the same way I would do for myself, but I’m going to put them first and foremost. I’ll still keep up with all those other stipulations we agreed on, but they will always be above myself.” And later on down the road, when I have my own kids, I can say, “Thank you, life, for the opportunity to create a new, additional contract. I will agree to the same terms that my parents agreed for upon my own birth.”
I should have read the contract. There were a lot of clauses which detailed the good things I would have. The bright, sunny days. The wonder in a child’s eyes. The smiles on the face of my beloved. The warm summer days and the beautiful winter nights. The smell of grass in spring and pumpkin spice lattes. The color blue and the sound of the rain. The pride of accomplishing something difficult. The joy at achieving a life goal. So many amazing things.
Sure, there were a few negative segments. The loss of a loved one. The hurricane. The car being repossessed and the expensive radio that got left in it. The heated arguments and the abandonment. The friend who couldn’t be saved and the addictions that couldn’t be tamed. But in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t this a contract worth signing?
There will always be contracts that people look back on and say, “I wish I wouldn’t have signed that contract.” Cell phone plans, credit cards, leases. But life…life is a contract we all sign that should come with no regrets. It’s the one contract worthwhile, and reading the fine print actually makes you feel better about signing.
It’s too late for me now, though. I wasn’t trapped at the bottom of a well…I was at the surface of an ocean. I wasn’t being drowned, I just wasn’t swimming. I wanted to be free, but I thought that contracts were lists of restrictions. I never thought they could be good.
I should have read the contract before I pulled the trigger.
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