Overall, living through a pandemic? A negative experience. Terrifying illness, increased political intensity and the look on people’s faces when they realize I was a 2020 high school senior — absolute pity mixed with a touch of sadness.
But, among these undeniably disheartening, stress-inducing times, there was a glimmer of hope — taking a walk. The pandemic catapulted what has since become my answer to most situations.
Anxious? Take a walk. Energized? Take a walk. A sunny day? Take a walk. A snowy day? Take a walk. Studying all day and have not left the apartment? Take a walk. My dog tilts her head at me when I walk downstairs? Talk a walk and bring her along, obviously.
The path I take is not ritual. If I am back home, I will typically drive to the closest park, allowing my dog’s temperament to decide how long we will continue.
While in Boston, the options become endless. A freshmen year staple was strolling down the esplanade along the Charles River, which I still frequent. More commonly, my walks now take me through Brookline to Fenway, making sure to include Amory Park along the way. Every once in a while I will wander around the endless neighborhoods around me to do some pretend house hunting.
As the pandemic was teaching me the art of a meaningful walk, the Biden campaign released a video with the intention of introducing Dr. Jill Biden to the American public. It highlighted her relationship with her family, her love of pranks and her hobbies, one of which was running. While on the topic, Dr. Biden explained how she has a rule — she never thinks of anything negative on her runs.
Compared to the turmoil of the 2020 election, this video lacked the high-stakes quality that most of the news consisted of at that time. However, the motto was striking to me. I took it on as my own, extended it past my runs and applied it to my walks.
And it isn’t easy.
When I am on my own, it is easy to slip into complaints and negativity, as there is no one there to counter me. No one to bring up a silver lining or tell me I am being dramatic. My own mind is my greatest enemy. Slipping into self-pity is all too easy.
It takes active practice to correct myself. However, practice makes perfect! Well, not perfect, but it definitely makes for improvement.
After a couple of years of maintaining this mindset, I now find comfort in asking myself what I am grateful for or what has recently added to my happiness.
I am a person who is constantly reflecting. At times, this results in a heightened aspect of self-criticism. My walks have become a time to reflect in a positive light. Recognizing what makes me proud of myself is such a wonderful habit that perpetuates a closer sense of self.
On my walks, I am my biggest supporter.
There are still days when I find it difficult to deny myself the quick gratification of agreeing with my own negativity. And there are weeks when I have trouble finding the time to take a walk without the end goal of arriving at class or work. On these days, I show myself grace and remind my disappointed self that I can always try again tomorrow.