Sunday was a lovely day in Oklahoma City and I went for a walk that afternoon. It was a beautiful spring day, temperature in the 60′, sunny, fresh breeze, well, it’s Oklahoma so closer to wind than breeze but still a pleasant day to be out and to walk around the neighborhood. It reminded me yet again of something we all know – the importance of walking. Not only is a healthy and relatively easy for most of us. The only equipment needed is a decent pair of shoes and a willingness to get up and walk out the door. But that’s only one of the many great things about walking.
I first understood the importance of walking in college. It was a gloomy, post-rainy day, cool and damp and I had been cooped up in a small residence hall room for too long. I pulled on my tennis shoes, jeans and a sweatshirt and headed out for a walk. The OU campus is mostly a rectangle with the residence halls at the south end. Most of my classes were on the south oval and I walked through that and kept going to the north oval. I was rarely ever on the north oval so it was a change of scenery and on a wet April day, it was green and lush. Several things happened on that walk. I got back to my room in a better frame of mind which taught me the power of walking when you need a new frame of reference. It also gave me a new feel for my campus and the images from that day are part of my sense of the OU campus as a place I call home. Finally, to this day, when it’s cool and rainy, I always have an urge to pull on tennis shoes and a sweatshirt and go for a walk.
I also learned the importance of walking as a way to develop a sense of place in a neighborhood or on a campus. Strolling my neighborhood in downtown Oklahoma City, I’ve found a great coffee and tea shop in easy walking distance. Two good pizza places easily reached and a couple of restaurants I enjoy. Any time I’m on a campus, especially when I’m joining a new campus, I find time to walk, to see the main highlights and begin to develop a sense of the place around me.
And perhaps my most important walk came when I was stuck trying to figure out what I should do about law school. I really didn’t want to go back to start my second year. And I was having a great time working with my new colleagues, the other hall directors at Texas Tech. So I went for a walk across campus. It was then that I realized for the first time that the buildings around me and all the offices behind each window were filled with people doing work I would find interesting and might even be able to do well. Walking across campus, I realized I knew what I wanted to do as a career.
Since that first campus walk, I’ve walked campus when the day has been difficult, I’ve walked campus when I needed to sort out a problem. I’ve walked my neighborhood when working at home after sitting through one too many Zoom meetings. When I’m trying to start a writing project I often use a walk to jump start my thinking. Julia Cameron explains walking as one of her tools to unlock our creativity. I came up with the idea for this newsletter while walking on Sunday.
Next time you’re stuck or have been in one too many meetings, take a moment to walk around your building or if you have time, to walk across campus. The walk is more energizing than the caffeine or candy bar and it may have the added benefit of providing you new ideas and present solutions to problems. We all know the importance of walking, but it’s good to remember the power of a walk as well.
PS – the only picture I found of a solo person walking without obvious headphones was not a stereotypical student or on a campus. I highly recommend no devices when you walk. That’s how you can listen and learn from your own thoughts as you go.