A windy path forward

I was walking back to my house in the late afternoon sun when I became aware of my path. Without realizing it, I was headed diagonally across the street to take the quickest road back. One could say it was my subconscious trying to make my movements as effective as possible, but I was slightly startled. 

Sometimes we take a path to reach the prize waiting at the end. Instead, sometimes we should do things purely to enjoy them in the moment. (Lucia Rivera)

How many times throughout our day do our bodies set us on a certain path without us realizing it? While I did want to return to my house, I was also enjoying being outside and walking around my neighborhood. 

In contrast, sometimes I purposefully walk in short zigzags across the sidewalk, trying to get the most steps in a short distance. It’s not the most time-efficient way to travel, but it’s working towards a goal: to walk more steps. But when does our pursuit of certain goals override our temporary joy?

All throughout our lives as students, we’re told to make the most out of our time, our education, our childhoods. We’re told to spend our time effectively to reach the goals we set for ourselves, or that others set for us. But what about just doing things for the sake of doing them?

Recently, during my volunteer shifts at a local hospital, I sit in stillness after visiting hours end. As the evening sun sets outside, I stand on the edge of boredom, constantly looking down the hallways for a possible visitor to help. Without a phone to endlessly scroll through, I was recently reminded of my childhood, when I used to be told that “only boring people get bored.” 

Back in elementary and middle school, my siblings and I learned to find interest in any little detail of our surroundings, whether that be the nutrition label on a granola bar or the stripes on a booth cushion. Even five years ago, spending time didn’t feel so calculated, but rather worth enjoying in any state. 

So, instead of feeling frustrated and bored as I wait for my shift to end, I tried to enjoy my time. It was by no means an “effective” use of my evening hours, but why did that mean it was not meaningful? Maybe just sitting quietly or walking around a meandering path can be meaningful too.

Maybe just sitting quietly or walking around a meandering path can be meaningful too.”

— Lucia Rivera

This summer, I predict I’ll have more pandemic free time than usual as I prepare to move away from home for the first time. In my mind, though, that time will be just as worth enjoying as the time I spent working hard the last four years. 

I’m sure we’ll all continue to hear society’s demands to “go, go, go!” but I’ve come to learn that sometimes society doesn’t have our best interests at heart. We each know ourselves best, and that includes knowing when taking a moment to pause is actually the most fruitful next step. Efficiency and ambition are critical, but they’re not everything—sometimes a dose of emptiness is good too.