Author: Kiersten Witkamp
It is human nature to have expectations. Every little girl expects her wedding day to be one right out of a fairy tale. Every high school senior expects life after high school to be the best thing since sliced bread. However, it is a fact of nature that expectations are rarely met. No, your first kiss won’t be as spectacular as everyone says and college really isn’t just one big party. There is almost always a gap between expectations and reality.
That fact didn’t stop me, though, from making up my mind, before we had even left, that Denver, Colorado wasn’t going to be anything special. Denver, in my mind, was one of those places where only cowboys and nature lovers went. And I was a city girl, born to walk the streets of New York, not some hilly dessert, thank you very much. What was there to do or see besides mountains? Sure enough, when the plane touched down at DIA, what was there? Mountains, mountains, and more mountains, which while they provided beautiful scenery, weren’t good for much else. Despite my parent’s assurances that there would be a plethora of things to do in this "city", my expectations weren’t changing.
As you could have guessed, though, my expectations were as far from reality as something from the Harry Potter series. The city was filled with building after tall building; the reflection of our car shimmered on the tinted windows as we drove to our hotel. I stared in wonder as we passed what seemed like hundreds of busy street corners thronged with beautiful businesswomen, cell phones glued to their ears and men using their hi-tech cell phones to keep themselves occupied. Girls towing shopping bags stuffed to the brim jostled confused tourists, trying to accommodate for all their packages. The streetlights glistened. Signs blinked rapidly, begging for my attention. Taxis whizzed by to the chorus of car horns. This place was busy with a capital "b", busy like a city.
I was sold when that night we walked around downtown and shopped at the famed 16th street mall. Once again my expectations were wrong. The "mall" was really a mile long street blocked by vendors and lined on both sides with tourist shops, local stores, and restaurants serving any kind of cuisine imaginable. The cobblestoned street housed horse drawn carriages, bicycle tours, free busses, hundreds of statues and even more people. Downtown was just as spectacular. There was everything from a pet boutique to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. It turned out my parents were right.
While the city was great, it was something else entirely that impressed me, however. The city was so clean and eco-friendly. I live close to Chicago and spend a lot of time there. The Magnificent Mile is magnificent, but the smog and trash on the streets certainly aren’t. I’d always just accepted that as normal, though, never questioning and definitely not trying to change it. But visiting Denver changed my perspective. In Denver, recycling bins were on every corner. The air was clean and fresh. There were almost as many bicycles as cars! Everyone was so committed to creating and protecting a healthy city. The visit gave me hope and inspired me to "go green". I make sure my family recycles everything we can and uses florescent light bulbs. I try to walk everywhere in my small town and I encourage my friends to do the same. Despite everyone’s expectations of the future, clean cities and a healthy earth can be a reality. Denver, Colorado inspired me to help make it happen.