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Consider the cockroach

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By Meaghan Downs

The view from an airplane window made it possible to dream of living in a cloud.
On Sunday, I found out what living in a cloud was like. I never want to know again.
The equation is simple. Autumn mornings plus the mixing of cool and warm air over the Kentucky River equals a Tyrone Pike bridge enveloped in a fog so thick you could scoop it into cupped hands.
As I was driving around the bend past the sweet scent of bourbon mash from Wild Turkey Distillery, the science behind the curtain of fog — hanging right in front of me — didn’t cross my mind.
This journey into fog is probably one many of you have taken. Possibly on the same time of day on the same bridge connecting Woodford and Anderson counties.  
But unlike the many, I was new to the terror of blindly going where I dared not drive.
Panicking, I weighed my choices: turn around and risk causing an accident, or move forward into the dangerous blindness on a narrow bridge high above the river.
For better or worse, I chose blindness.
In the minutes it took to drive across the bridge, I thought hours of silence ticked by while I squinted at the opposite lane of traffic, looking for the danger of yellow headlights.   
I heard nothing but my short, raspy breathing as my car poked a rectangular hole through the fog bank.
I saw nothing but the white cloud surrounding me.  
I thought of nothing except short phrases shoved together in fear. Beautiful. Terrible. Please get me out of here.
Later, when the fog cleared, I thought of the cockroach.
Cockroaches, an indomitable example of insect resilience, are physically incapable of moving backward. It’s one of their many talents, including fast reflexes and apparent immortality.
We don’t often champion the virtues of the cockroach.  It’s an unnatural word-association to link “progress” and “cockroach” together. Similar to the word-association of “cute” and “cockroach.”
But as the pounding of my heart took over the thinking of my brain, I believe I took on the mindset of the cockroach: Don’t stop. Don’t turn back. Plunge forward because forward is the only choice left.
The cockroach doesn’t have any choice. Moving forward has been biologically determined for them.
But we, being human beings and all, have the cognitive ability to make choices. Many choices, in fact. Sometimes, so many possibilities we’re distracted by the choice to make a choice.
When we talk about life, there are two schools of logic: choice and fate. It’s a debate as old as time itself, and manifests in every arena: Are we determined by environment or experience? Do we regard others as victims of circumstance or their own life choices?
As for me, I’m not a member of either the Choices or Fate camps. Life is too complicated to slap on a label of “Choice!” or “Fate!” for every situation; it’s too exhausting to argue who determines what and why.  
The more of life I’ve seen — and at 23, it’s honestly not that much — the more I don’t seem to understand, to be able to break down and process.
Trapped in the fog, I only knew what the cockroach knows — keep moving.