I was pedaling along a busy bike path with my eyes glancing to the river beside me and my thoughts were easy and slow. The air was clean and I breathed it in deeply, inhaling the memories this city always stirs up in me. The boys I thought were my world, my family changing, bending, and breaking, all of the friends I’d made and left behind, my many attempts to figure out who I was. This city has changed so much and I’ve changed even more being away from it. Contemplation, excitement, maybe even a little regret.
I’m in my hometown visiting family on vacation for two weeks and I’m amazed once again at how being home seems to quiet me. All of a sudden, I’m back to square one if only for two weeks. Back where it all started, where I made most of the beginning decisions that got me where I am today. Part of the reason why I think I get so contemplative in this city is because I am visiting the very places where my life started to take shape. These are no longer far off memories to be thought of, but real locations and people in front of my eyes. The park where we were caught by the cops after hours, the football field where we turned on the lights New Year’s Eve at midnight, the cross overlooking the city where Bryan and I first kissed 7 years ago. I can’t escape them when they are right there. Mostly why I think I tend to look back on my life, however, is because of how slow it is and how much time I have to think on vacation. I get to have lots of bike rides, quiet runs with my dog, trips to the coffee shop. I am away from all of my commitments at home and I get to just live how I want. That’s why they say you can never live where you vacation.
Over the last week, I’ve realized how important it is to take time to just be alone. Grabbing your bike or running shoes, leaving behind the IPod, and just being quiet. Taking in the world around you and watching life happen with nowhere else to be. To “find the universal elements enough…. the air and the water exhilarating” as John Burroughs put it. Obviously, on vacation having time to do this is a given. But how do we cultivate time for stillness and quiet in our everday lives?
Just like everything, it’s all about priorities. Making time for what’s important and literally penciling it into your calendar. Plan to wake up an hour early every morning and take a jog by yourself. Schedule an hour every evening before bedtime to journal. Commit to go hiking or on a walk every Saturday morning. It doesn’t matter how long you spend or how often you go for; it’s about why you are doing it. Taking the time to cool down after an argument before talking things over, thinking through some recurring thoughts you keep having, or even just to make yourself slow down and enjoy the scenery. So, make the time. To grab your running shoes. To go on a day hike. To Think. To Pedal.