I am exhausted in the most satisfactory way.
With hardly any animal visits or walks today and no work at the grocery store, I had the day to myself. This is a rare occasion. The other night, my mom asked me what I was doing this weekend. “Working, visiting a cat, cleaning.” I hadn’t planned to do anything in particular until I realized the opportunities this day presented me. I could go on a day trip somewhere. I could explore my little corner of the world, a place I’ve lived for the past nine months.
I consider myself to be an aspiring traveler. While I often dream of places farther and more grandiose- France, Germany, South Korea- there are places within 50 miles that I haven’t bothered to explore. I try to remind myself that traveling far and traveling well are not correlated. There are numerous places within your own region of the country, state, or, if you’re lucky to live in a big enough place, city.
During my semester abroad in England, I spent all of my time in the United Kingdom, save for a couple of days in Ireland. Some of my other friends who studied abroad went to other places such as Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, Amsterdam… all of those places are on my list. While I didn’t visit these places while I was abroad, I believe that I had an advantage to staying in England, Ireland, and Scotland: Within the small nation, I left very few stones unturned. I thoroughly explored the country, from London, to Stratford-Upon-Avon, to Bath. Remembering this, I hope to do the same in other places where I live.
Time, however, is a luxury. During my semester abroad, I was lucky to have lots of it. Here, I work two part-time jobs, and I work at least one, if not both, of these jobs every day.
As I usually have to focus on work- getting dressed for work, eating so I won’t get hungry during work, making sure I leave my apartment on time for work- I find very little time to focus on the here and now. When I come home from dog walking with only an hour to spare before my shift at the grocery store, I am always looking at the clock, anticipating the moment it will tell me that it is time to leave. You’d think this makes me jumpy, but it often makes me sluggish. “I wish I could take time to enjoy my breaks.” I think to myself. “I wish they didn’t feel so short.”
During the weekends, I get angry at myself for not doing enough productive things before I go into work for the rest of the day. I go to work and my room is still messy. My dirty clothes still unclean. I’ve lost count of the consecutive days I’ve worn the same jeans. Doing these small chores isn’t hard. But it is also very hard. The thought of lifting my 50 pound basket of clothes and driving to the laundromat is much more daunting than the task itself. Because of these thoughts, these tasks are left undone. Seeing them undone, seeing my messy room the way it is, makes me feel less of myself. “I should be able to do these simple tasks. Why can’t I do anything right?” It makes a stone in my stomach that keeps me in bed sometimes.
Getting over these thoughts is like climbing a mountain. It’s hard to start these chores, but they are simple once I do.
This brings me to what I decided to do with my free day today: I went on a hike. I chose the Blue Hills Reservation just outside of Boston because of its proximity and because of its views of Boston’s skyline. Making plans to do this, and perhaps the fact that I deep cleaned my room yesterday, made me excited to get out of bed and get ready. I went to the grocery store, said hi to my friends, and bought some water and trail mix (albeit the blend containing the most chocolate) to go with my homemade ham and cheese sandwich and a couple of clementines.
There are two reasons I decided to get trail mix: one, I hadn’t eaten anything this morning except for Greek yogurt and granola, and two is that I decided that I would take the Skyline Trail, which was marked as “challenging.” “Whatever,” I thought to myself, “I can do anything I set my mind to.” This is coming from someone whose last hike was over six months ago.
Less than half a mile into my hike, I had already hit a wall. Almost literally. The hill was almost perpendicular and covered in rocks. Instead of being nervous, however, I went ahead and started my trek. Finding footholds on this hill was therapeutic and meditative. It kept me present. I focused on my legs and feet, and, like in yoga, sending my (heavy) breaths towards them.
There were at least five or six stretches of the trail that were like this that I had to either climb up or down. I was rewarded in between with expansive views and relatively flat terrain. Also, a few dogs walked up to me and said hello, including a pitbull/terrier mix puppy in a cable-knit sweater.
Focusing on nothing but my next steps, feeling the cool air around me, and turning my phone on silent helped me to be present. The simple task of moving forward allowed my mind to wander. It is through these metaphorical and literal wanderings that I am able to deeply think.
Within nature, I am reminded of its resilience, and of my own resilience too. I was overjoyed to find that climbing the peaks became easier as I moved forward. Perhaps I was moving pretty slowly, but since I was alone, I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with anyone. I could make my own pace. I think about how I felt looking at the first hill I had to climb, and how I felt after I had reached my destination at the weather observatory. It turns out, my overconfident mind was correct. I can do anything I set my mind to.