this might be hard to believe, but i never learned how to rest.
i was an overactive child. my schedule was always full of activities, fun things to do, places to be. my mom was only too happy to spend her exorbitant homemaker's allowance on gymborees, books, piano, speech and drama classes; anything to occupy her precocious six-year-old. when i grew up, and my parents got divorced, i was left to my own devices – and continue to cook up crazy adventures and make-believe to keep me and my sister entertained. i read. i drew. i played. there was never a boring moment, because i never let myself get bored.
when i grew up, that preoccupation with busyness turned to overachievement. i'd always done well in school extracurriculars – and i learned in my late teens, the right mix of ambition and persuasion could unlock a world of opportunity for anyone willing to put themselves out there. and so, i did. the world was my oyster, right? you were only young once? i took that to heart. i never stopped moving, trying, learning, exploring. it was... fun. but also, exhausting.
and when the pandemic eventually hit, i was struck with the realization that i was in my late twenties, trapped in the same 300sqft room, and never learned how to be by myself.
the first time i went on a solo walk, i made an excursion out of it. it felt so weird, so wrong, to be so alone with my thoughts. i remember soaking up the sights and sounds of the neighborhood, picking up the littlest details: a new shop sign, the glint of street lights, the way people interacted as they passed me by. it was a Saturday night, and i felt a profound loneliness: here were families, lovers, friends, out and about, and yet i was all alone. but i wasn't, not really. i was WITH myself.
the more walks i took, the more i started to get a taste for my own company. after so many years of being so many things for so many people, it felt revelatory to follow my own whims; to be led by curiosity and wonder, not obligation or purpose. i started looking forward to these pockets of time with myself; using them to listen to music, podcasts, or simply slow down and wander. it was never about "exercise" or "forest bathing" or any of the ‘hacks’ mainstream media tries to sell you to make this time 'productive'; it was a gift. an opportunity to step away from the everyday, and just be.
it sounds simple, in theory, but i've faced so much internal resistance to building this habit. my own family never had an affinity with the outdoors; they were terrified of the sun, and would often choose to travel by car. but my two feet were my preferred vehicle of choice: when i walk, i slow down. i observe. i *notice*. the dandelion swaying in the breeze. the stray cat bravely trying to cross the street. once, i stumbled across a dead frog, shriveled to a crisp by the sun, and spent time just squatting by the roadside, staring at it in fascinated horror. anyone driving by would have thought i'd lost my marbles, but that's the other thing about these walks – they've taught me to be OK with just being myself.
it may seem strange, engaging in childlike behavior when you're a grown-ass adult. DO IT ANYWAY. dance. laugh. sing along to your favorite songs out loud. one of my favorite memories is twirling my umbrella and belting along to the entire discography of Red (Taylor's Version) when it first dropped, like i was an extra on 'Singing In The Rain'. these are the moments i remember, tucked safely away in the safe haven of my mind.
we were conditioned to believe that pleasure only comes from fast-more-better; that we need to do something – achieve more, do better, shell out cash or earn enough prestige – to *deserve* it. but what i've found is that the opposite is true. i feel infinitely more pleasure from the little joys in life: a cool breeze, majestic trees, the first rays of sunshine warming my skin. riotous bursts of color from flowers i pass on the street. a spider, painstakingly rebuilding its web after a thunderstorm. as a city kid who'd been cut off from these experiences in childhood, it feels like i'm rediscovering an essential piece of the puzzle of being human. we once lived side-by-side with Nature. how did we get so far removed?
it feels so powerful, so empowering, to know that i have everything i need around me, IN me. during the pandemic, when we were all going stir-crazy in our homes, i learned to reconnect with the world around me. to rest is to walk, i realized. no agenda, no purpose; just you, your earphones, and a world of possibilities at your feet. if you, like me, have never learned to slow down – start small. be gentle with yourself. lean on your crutches: maybe it's listening to music, maybe it's taking photos. it's okay to need "an excuse" in the beginning. but when you really get into it, when it feels better to be outside, moving your body, being OF the world, than it is to be in your room and in your head – that's when you'll know you've finally stepped over to the other side.
i'm there, now. i'm looking up Silent Retreats. i'm thinking of traveling again (i took my first solo road trip a month ago, and am raring to go again). but more than anything, i'm just trying to keep this habit going. i have a standing date with myself every Friday, to go to my favorite park and just spend time there. there is no agenda, no set time, no friend i'm meeting or goal i'm achieving – so it's easy to delay it, or schedule something right after to ensure i get out the door. that's okay. i'm learning to give myself grace.
i never learned to rest, but like love and forgiveness and running a business, it's never too late to start.
it is the most important thing i have ever done. 🌱
(1,040 words, at time of writing)
i decided against posting Day 3 publicly (2,000 words not ready to be shared just yet!), so here is my contribution for Day 4 of #1000wordsofsummer. this challenge has been at turns enlightening, energizing, back-breaking and soul-crushing. today was the hardest of them all – i procrastinated for 1.5 hours before finally cranking out the first 500 words, barely crossing the finish line. but i did it, and it’s not perfect, but i’m proud. here’s to the next 10 days! 🌟
if this resonated with you, as always, drop me some love below. it’ll keep me going :)
Thank you. I love wandering around on my own whether in the city or the countryside, short walks or longer hikes