(image credit: Pinterest)
It's like I can finally breathe again; I'm no longer confined to layers upon layers of clothing, nor does my head have to be kept down in wanting to guard itself from the wind. Slowly inhaling gulps of spring scented air, I begin my trek up the slightly angled sidewalk toward my destination.
Since I've been a college student, leisure walks have taken the place of mornings and afternoons spent on my backward swing set; it's my one of my escapes from the world, a getaway from chores and things that are crying out to get done. I have a strong preference for walking over running; I don't trip as much, and it allows me more opportunities to take everything in.
Yes, I've been here almost three years and I still look around in awe, amazed that I'm actually here and that I've come so far. It didn't seem all too long ago that I was a dumbstruck eighteen year old, thinking that this place was utterly huge and intimidating to navigate. I'm still terrible with directions, but I can tell you where to go based on various landmarks.
I go past the local Starbucks, a yoga studio and a super fancy restaurant that serves all these weird looking food platters. Making a right, I now stand in what some call the heart of campus, or at least the night life scene. It's pretty much a mixture of bars and eateries, but some have more sentimental memories than others. On one side is a popular hang out where I had my very first kiss, and on the other is a nightclub where I managed to find myself in some pretty interesting situations. Apparently I'm quite the dancer in both establishments. For whatever reason, they like to party like it's still the 90's, but you can't get them to play Luke Bryan. I don't get it.
But it's not just about the craziness and whatever happens as a result. Some of the most meaningful moments and conversations have taken place around here. I became best friends with someone through getting coffee on several Friday afternoons. A few doors down I celebrated my twenty-first birthday, where I can still recall receiving one of the best hugs I've gotten in a long time
The majority of the memories that I hold in my heart weren't (and still aren't) planned or expected. Yet, that's what makes them so incredibly beautiful. Subconsciously, I know that certain things may not happen again for a long time, or maybe ever. So I savor whatever is happening; moments where in context it doesn't come across as a big deal, yet it still means the world to me. I take snapshots in my mind: from the music that plays through the speakers to the people I run into, I manage to remember it all.
It was through those moments that I've learned to be present and live with an open heart. To not worry about what comes afterward or who's looking at me. I just take it in, and remind myself that the only regrets worth having are when you don't learn a lesson or have a story to tell because of it.
I begin to take the usual route back to my apartment, where papers need to be written, chapters need to be read, and productivity is a definite must. That all too-often sense of being overwhelemed washes over me, but with it comes an oh-so gentle reminder that never fails to give me goosebumps: cherish this.
Usually that's the kick-start to an emotional tug of war; I frequently get stuck between knowing that I'm blessed with more than I deserve, while at the same time feeling pulled down by the undertow of both short term and long term stresses. It's that whole "well there's always someone out there who has it worse" while believing that I could, and want to be in a much better place than I am currently.
It's draining and exhausting; above all else, it doesn't work.
The thing is, you don't have to choose a side. I used to believe that you either had to be really happy or really pissed off, and those can be umbrella terms for a lot of other matters. You don't necessarily have to be for something or against it. What I'm trying to say is that there are days where you're going to feel on top of the world, and days where you're going to feel like you're being crushed by it. The trick is ultimately knowing when to let go instead of dwelling on what you can't change or control.
Before turning the corner, I look back and survey the scene before me: people grazing on sushi or sandwiches in one of the nearby cafes. Children laughing and playing on the little playground in front of the public library. Men and women of all ages relaxing on various benches, contemplating life and appreciating the sunshine. This is what I know as of today: everyone has their own share of crap they have to deal with and their own pain they have to heal from. That doesn't mean there isn't any joy or hope. Life is hard, but God is still good.
Reflections like these are what make my walks similar to therapy; in some ways, they're even more clarifying than sitting in a room full of people and going on about whatever I'm struggling with. I'm not venting and rehashing out the same stuff; I'm observing what's around me and learning from it. Sometimes it's good to put a little distance from a to-do list because it gives you the ability to rest and approach in a healthier way later on.
And the best part? You never know who you might run into, or what adventure you might embark on next!