It was in the midst of yet another 50-hour work week, with no hope of a real weekend to unwind, when finally it dawned on Jess that she had become a lifeless, mechanized tool. Working in a busy restaurant where she had learned to smile on command for a living, 95 percent of her life was spent to financially support herself in an industry that was literally sucking the life out of her. Free time was only for sleeping, eating and preparing to face the next round of high expectations and unreasonably selfish demands of the blood-sucking customers, the parasites that preyed upon her obligation to be kind to them every day without fail. She watched their faces as they got high off of complaining about the service and the restaurant as loudly as possible, pretending to listen while she imagined stabbing them in the eyes. Jess watched herself mechanically move through her day as an animated, persuasive puppet who remained hollow on the inside, and she wondered if it would ever change -- if those promises of financial freedom could ever really come.
After work that day, she didn't want to go home -- there was nothing comforting about it. She didn't have a destination, and she didn't care. As the car sped along, she let it turn wherever it wanted, anywhere that was far away from the problems and issues of other people. In 10 minutes, Jess reached the highway, turned north and just kept going. She had never been this way before, but she instinctively knew she was finally going in the right direction for once in her life. The car chose an exit about 20 minutes later: a pleasantly winding road that went past Native American Indian reservations and out into unexplored, open desert. There were no more houses or buildings of any kind, just the sand, and sky, and already she was beginning to feel a little bit better. A mysterious road sign suggested a steep, uphill gravel path to an unknown attraction, and the car agreed with the direction. She drove for 10 minutes up such a sharp incline that it was a wonder the old car didn't give up on her, and finally, she reached the top and saw nothing but clear, piercing blue sky all around her. She parked and walked out, and after 10 more steps forward, she forgot to breathe.In front of her, the Earth had opened up miles wide into a tremendous valley of the sparse desert forest with graceful slopes that melted down together into a perfect, still turquoise lake, a massive lake in the middle of the pure desert wilderness! It was a miracle to have found it, and the best part was that she couldn't see any sign of another living human being for miles in any direction! She inhaled the air, tasting freedom, and her ears rang from the fathomless silence that swallowed her up. Jess sat on the edge of that cliff, remembering what it was to be in awe of the world again for the first time since she had been born. There was no time here, and there were no voices except the soft wind. She laughed out loud as if she had found gold; then she started running down the steep slope to touch that perfectly serene stillness of a lake below.As she ran, her feet began flying at an unreal speed, barely preventing her from tumbling down the mountainside as she was breathing harder and faster all of the time, until ... she hit bottom. As Jess walked toward the lake, she became even more quiet and serene just like the undisturbed lake itself, and she slowly gazed at it in every direction. From this level she could barely see the opposite shore; it was as a small sea that led into another dimension of reality. The water was cool and refreshing on this summer afternoon, and she couldn't resist the lake's invitation.Knowing that no one but nature was watching her, she took off her clothes and entered that perfect water. It became deep very quickly, and the water cradled her and supported her like a mother while she floated and swam, letting her pain slide away and dissolve into the depths of that mystical lake. When she was too tired to swim anymore, she got back out and retrieved her dry work clothes, a little reluctant to have to put them back on once more. She went back to the car more slowly and with a spirit as light as a cloud.After she returned home later that evening, her roommate looked at her with surprise."Where did you go?" she asked.Jess smiled, a real smile for the first time in years, and answered, "I had to remember what the world was like without people on it to separate myself from the madness of mankind."