Child of the City

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I am a child of the city. My summer afternoons were spent baking under the tyranny of the sun, whose heat bounced unforgivingly off of the blacktop streets and the harsh, cement sidewalks. Blaring hip hop mixes and soulful R&B ballads filled my childhood. Block parties and cookouts. Freeze tag and quickly erected pools. I am a child of the city, tempered in the fires of urbanity, but of all of the places on this vast earth, the forest is the place that has my heart.

The first time that I went camping, rain poured on my Boy Scout troop from the time that we entered the campsite until the time that we left. It was a wholly miserable experience, having to prop up tents in the dark of night while rain soaked into every fiber of my being. It seemed as though every attempt to keep the water from creeping into my tent was doomed to fail. But some love affairs only prosper under duress. Even with the less than pleasant weather, that camping trip was one of my best experiences. We hunted for snakes in thigh-high grass, scrambled up an old, twisted tree trunk; went on a night hike on an off-beaten trail; roasted marshmallows inside of a spitting fire and carved staffs out of fallen tree limbs. In the moonlight we chanted old scouting songs and learned more about one another than we ever would have if we were surrounded by concrete. By the time that I returned to the city after my first foray into the forest, I had abandoned the idea of being a child of the city. Why find comfort in the artificiality of a man-made creation, when Mother Nature was so willing to open up her arms to me?

The first trip happened when I was in sixth grade, and now, as a twelfth grader, I value those camping trips more than ever before. When I am in the city I am a captive of the vicissitudes of urban living. There is no peace when you live in a Wi-Fi soup, because your fingers know nothing more than fumbling for the nearest device and trying to insert yourself into the global online community. And now, all of a sudden, you are connected and you cannot take yourself off the map. Every aspect of the human existence, both fortunate and unfortunate, assails you from all sides. Deadlines and nauseating news headlines fill your mind with unnecessary clutter. I am a child of the city, but life in the city is suffocating.

So when I slip away on the weekends and find myself ambling through the foliage, I am liberated. And in many ways, these excursions have tempered my personality more than day to day experiences. In the forest I can reflect, and as a result I have become altogether more conscientious. I was born in the city, but ultimately, the forest is what raised me.

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