Reed: Freshmen, go for a walk

Chase Reed, Columnist

It’s only the second week of school, and if you’re anything like I was last fall, your first year in college isn’t going exactly as planned.

At Northwestern, we don’t have a lot of downtime in our schedules to play around with. Between class, homework, work-study and extracurriculars, I barely have an hour to wind down at the end of the day before it’s time to go to sleep and start the cycle over again. It’s become important for me, as a result, to find time to mull over the mishmash of thoughts swirling around my head. The question, then, is how do you find time for yourself when there seemingly is none?

Take a walk.

At some point in your life — maybe when a teacher or parent encouraged you to calm down after an outburst of anger or when a fraternity denied you access to a Wildcat Welcome party — you’ve probably been told to “take a walk.” It’s a seemingly ubiquitous cure-all for frustration and dissatisfaction. Stand still, and your mind’s a flurry with vexing thoughts. Start moving, and you can start to process those thoughts more clearly.

When you take a moment to slow down and examine your surroundings, you’ll discover that the merits of a long walk extend far beyond merely hitting a daily step count. In fact, there’s no better way to unwind from the anxiety and stress of college than to take a step forward, reflect on your thoughts and reexamine your place in the world.

If you’ve been feeling stressed by classes or overwhelmed by the transition to college, put on a pair of your sturdiest sneakers and take a step outside. Feel the pavement as it smacks against your shoes, then slow down and breathe.

Look at — no, actually see the pedestrians passing you on the street, the rough-and-tumble facades of offices, restaurants and community centers coldly surrounding you as you pass them by. What sensations do you feel as you gaze at a window display, or an abandoned alleyway or maybe a man walking his dog?

Freedom, perhaps, to experience the world with no filter. Empathy? Inspiration?

In her novel, “Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London,” author Lauren Elkin argues that walking down the street is tantamount to exploring one’s sense of self. Through the act of walking and the art of observing, not only do you enrich yourself with the sights, sounds and smells of nature, but you also begin to reflect on how you feel about those sensations — rather than focusing on NU-related stressors.

One of the best things about living on campus is the number of scenic paths, trails and walkways that can take you from point A to point B. These paths provide venues for meditative contemplation and individual reflection. Missing out on these landscapes of natural beauty by burying your nose in a phone can be a big mistake.

So close Twitter, unplug your headphones and start paying attention to the world around you. The answers to your most pressing questions and a break from NU-related stress could be just a few steps away.

Chase Reed is a Communication sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.