Nearly every 15-minute block of time of my Yale career has been mapped out on Google Calendar. Every day, I bounce from meeting to meeting, meal to meal, class to class and library to library. And for the most part, I’m pretty unapologetic about it. Such meticulous planning allows me to make the most of my Yale experience and to milk my four years here for all they’re worth.
Where was I going? I had no idea. How long would I be gone? Not a clue. I just wanted to do something that served no practical purpose and met no deadline. So I grabbed my tennis shoes, queued up my favorite Spotify playlist and hit the streets of New Haven.
And for the first 15 or 20 minutes, nothing happened. I had no particular destination in mind, other than a vague notion that I wanted to walk away from Yale, and my mind never dwelled on any one thing more than another.
Eventually, however, I slowly realized at least one of the reasons why I was out there, why I had this inexplicable itch to get away from campus: Over the last few months, I had been bottling up a lot of issues inside that were gnawing away at me and keeping me from functioning at full capacity.
So, as I moved beyond the edge of campus, I forced myself to keep walking until I figured out exactly what was bothering me and what I needed to do to resolve it. I mostly walked in a straight line, turning only occasionally and haphazardly, giving no real thought to where I was going or how long I would be out. And as I turned down streets I had never seen before and as the time slowly ticked by, I finally came to a resolution about the personal issues that had been bothering me over the last few months.
By then, nearly 45 minutes later, I had ventured far from my residential college and had no plan about what I would do next. But instead of turning around, I just kept walking.
During the next phase of the walk, my thoughts varied widely. On the deeper side, I reflected on my time at Yale and where I was going: What kind of person did I want to be? What kind of career made the most sense for me? Who were the people who meant the most to me?
But other thoughts were more trivial. I thought about how I used to hate New Haven but how I’ve now fallen in love with this city. I also realized little things like how incredibly close the new residential colleges will be to the residents of Dixwell and wondered to myself whether that would have positive or negative implications for town-gown relations.
And then, after nearly two hours, it just seemed time to come home. So I did.
I can’t say for sure that such a whimsical Tour de New Haven would be fruitful for everyone. But it’s worth thinking about how much of your time is structured while you’re here at Yale. Perhaps it’s worth sacrificing time spent on an essay or problem-set for your own mental health. Perhaps not.
I’ll admit to going right back to a well-structured schedule immediately upon returning to campus, and I’ll also admit the 8 p.m. walk was a shameless repudiation of every email Ronnell Higgins has ever sent. But that two-hour catharsis of complete and utter alone time was surprisingly refreshing. I simply needed to reset.
So if you have something on your mind that you just can’t shake, or if you want to see more of this great city, or if you just have a free block of time that GCal hasn’t yet taken hostage, consider taking a walk. You might be glad you did.
Tyler Blackmon is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .