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The Path through the Forest

        Once upon a time there was a very ambitious young woman who knew exactly what she wanted to do in life and where she wanted to be in ten years’ time. She set off on her path one day and quickly realized that if she wanted to be where she wanted to be in ten years’ time, she would have to go through a forest that lay between her and her goals. The forest was very dark and tangled, very thick and quite hard to get through, but others had managed to do it before. Being an ambitious, organized, and serious kind of person, she consulted maps, books and other people who had traversed the forest before her and worked out the quickest and easiest way to get through to the other side, where she believed she could achieve her goals.

The young woman set off into the forest and took the first two years of her journey in her stride. In fact, she had figured out such a clear and straight path, avoiding most of the major obstacles on the way, that she managed to get through the forest in record time. Her last two years in the forest passed through an area that almost didn’t look like a forest any more as the trees had been chopped down and the way through was clear. In this last part of the forest, she was able to see her goal looming ahead of her. She was able to plan and prepare to scale that mountain and be where she wanted to be.

On her way through the forest, she met many others who had set out on the path and many of them had no clear goal and seemed quite lost and confused and the young woman told herself that she would avoid those kinds of people, as she didn’t want to lose her own focus. Towards the end of the first year, she had a particularly puzzling encounter. She came into a glade and saw a young man sitting on a rock, staring at a beetle that had landed there. The beetle was a bright brilliant blue and the young man was just staring at it, apparently entranced by the beetle. Our young heroine wondered if he was not a little simple and she was about to pass him by when he spoke a few words and she realized that he was talking to her and he wanted to share his enthusiasm for the beetle with her, but she had no time for that kind of thing and so she bowed politely and left the dazed young man sitting on the rock.

Six years after she left the forest, the young woman had achieved her goal. She worked in a bright, towering office in the center of the city, for a powerful corporation. She had risen quickly to become Vice-President, had her own private chauffeur, a beautiful apartment, a husband who cooked for her and cleaned the house and a salary that meant that she would not have to worry for her own future or her children, when she chose to have them. Everything was perfect and her life felt complete, but every so often, for reasons she could not explain to herself, she thought about the young man and the beetle in the forest.

It was a year after this that she met him again, by chance. She had gone to a dinner with some foreign businesswomen and after the dinner they invited her to a bar near their hotel. It was not the kind of bar that she would normally frequent. It was rather small and dingey and looked unclean, but it was the only one open at that time of night. As soon as she entered the bar she stopped in surprise, when she saw that the bartender, a man with a ponytail and a little goatee beard, was the same man she had met in the forest all those years before. They got to chatting about the forest and their journey through and she told him how quickly she had passed, and the man smiled and then little by little he told his own story.

He told her that he sat looking at the beetle for a very long time and then, when the beetle flew off, he set off to follow it, in a direction without a path and spent seven years traversing the forest, often lost, often confused and sometimes falling into a kind of despair, but every time he fell into despair he walked on, in no particular direction, and discovered parts of the forest that did not seem to have been visited by any other human being. And in the strange glades and tangled thickets of the forest he came across creatures he had never imagined, some of which talked to him in strange languages, some of which entered his dreams and stayed with him after he left the forest and even now visited him nightly, singing sweet and mysterious songs.

And when he finally left the forest, he decided to travel for a few years and see where the songs would lead him and for three years, he had been all over the world, seeing sights and hearing sounds that he could not have imagined and meeting people who became close friends, who were totally different from him. And then when he returned to his own country, he couldn’t decide what to do with his life, so he opened a small bar, where he could mix colored cocktails and talk to people about the things he had seen on his journey. And as he said this, he placed a cocktail before the woman, a bright blue cocktail that was terribly beautiful, but she couldn’t see it because her eyes were so clouded with tears.