I am walking with my head dipped down. My steps pound the pavement with a steadiness that can only come from familiarity. There is no more frantic rushing or hesitant pacing. There is only one schedule, one week at a time until another semester is over. At least, this day is over. Lecture following lecture, staring at a PowerPoint slide, staring into oblivion. There is an easy complacency between exams, when only minimal attention is required. I take notes without reviewing them. I ignore the extra readings. I will return to them, eventually, in the frenzied night before the test. But for now, I am calmly ignorant, willing to leave the inevitable chaos for the future. It has been a typical Thursday in a typical life.
I return to my room in the same quietness. It is a feeling that isn’t negative or positive, isn’t happy or sad. It is just the feeling of existing, floating in the middle. I am not exactly aimless, but I don’t know where I am going. It is a simple feeling, because it doesn’t excite any outcry of grief or burst of excitement. One can simply feel it, no further reflection needed. But these feelings, ultimately, are a trap of our own doing. We may wake up, engage in conversation, walk from class to class, but we aren’t truly there. We may be in attendance for all these things and never be truly present. Then, something shakes, and the careful holding pattern is broken.
On Thursdays, I run. Like the classes, it holds my day in order. I struggle out the door with my half-tied shoes and suddenly, the sun is beating insistently on my face, urging me to look up and around. All seems to be well, only a few stragglers adorn the sidewalk. They absorb the sunlight without acknowledgement. I easily dodge them as I push my legs into motion. I need to focus on my breathing, I need to get it under control. But it is abruptly impossible because there is something in the air, too, that is strangely compelling. In the middle of the track, I stop and look, breathe and feel. The perfect blue of the sky takes up my view, until it becomes all I can see. It makes me feel miniscule. The world surrounds me, in a magnitude I can’t imagine. I reach out my arms and my combined wingspan is so insignificant that it makes me laugh. The careful schedule is rendered immediately ridiculous. In the context of the world, I am running on the smallest little hamster wheel. Perhaps this should have summoned some sort of existential despair. Instead, only exultation in an order much greater than myself. Somehow, the world had arranged itself into a storybook. A perfect fall day in every aspect lay before me, from the still-vivid grass to the crackling, drying leaves. Yet, I had failed to see it all until this moment. Perhaps it is not the world that suddenly becomes extraordinary. Perhaps it is our vision, usually so dim, that becomes luminous.