This summer I began running. Mostly, I ran from my problems. But I also took up running because I wanted to go places or more specifically, to revisit places. On particularly motivated mornings, I would roll out of bed, lace up my torn sneakers, relish in the fresh air, and start jogging. But the air would always feel a tad bit hot, the sneakers always needed to be adjusted, and my legs always cramped at the just the wrong time. So, I usually found myself stopping mere minutes into my grand exercise intentions.
It would never do to return home in shame and humiliation, though. The thirty minutes allotted to exercise was instead spent wandering into suburban neighborhoods. That was when I realized something amazing. When you walk, your body hates you a lot less than when you run. I began to enjoy the quietly watered lawns, the perfect peace of an empty sidewalk. There was no more pounding blood or pulsating lungs. Only lazy strolls and the occasional passing smile. I even appreciated the indistinguishable nature of the houses. Each one had their own pleasantly framed windows, their own shade of grey or blue, and white door. But occasionally, I meandered into the strange and unfinished.
These were the neighborhoods that were still under construction.
Without the affable shells of paint and shingling, they more resembled the outlines that I would scrawl in kindergarten than a home. Knowing this, the builders always posted a rendering, a peek at future glory. A rendering is never bright. That would be entirely too crass. No, a rendering should be lightly shaded, the lines should have the texture of a sketch. A rendering is vague, but the sun is always shining in a rendering, so we cease to notice the other details. The best characteristic of a rendering is that it diverts your attention from the messiness of actual construction. It skips to the neatness when all the splinters have been hidden by wallpaper brick. Once finished, the houses would be as pleasantly smooth as all the rest. The flatness of a rendering imprinted onto the real world. Eventually, though, I was forced leave the calm of the suburbs for the chaos of campus.
Here there is no building alike and no discernible theme or pattern to unify them. Ross is different than Mason is different than West Hall. It scared me when I first came to Ann Arbor. The mess of navigating everywhere. The only similarity is the endless construction. No matter where I am, there seems to be an obsession with building and rebuilding. As soon as one thing is finished, we find an excuse to improve something else. And ultimately it is the same reason that I came to the University of Michigan despite the jumble. It was because I had a rendering of myself. Myself finally finishing a run. Myself getting a job. But what can I do? I am still under construction.