Jessai Flores

I recently discovered that sometimes I just want to keep walking. The idea of sitting down in an enclosed space makes me slightly queasy—or rather, it’s the idea of leaving the cool open skies that makes my stomach sink.

So I move through the northeastern neighborhoods that look completely foreign to my Texas-landscape-accustomed eyes; my mind is plugged right into the music in my ears and the pavement under my shoes and the sweet air in my lungs on a rare sunny winter day. 

On this particular day, I start by walking from Hillhouse to Audubon with the belief that the short walk to Koffee? will be enough to satisfy me. I step through the building’s threshold, and with one look around I notice my aversion to being in the busy, packed space. I’m not ready yet.

I step back out, and I keep walking with no destination in mind. I walk down the routes my body feels pulled toward; down Lincoln Way and its brick overpass, a turn on Bradley Street until I hit the wide street and colorful houses on Orange. I walk up, north, away.

In moments––flashes––I feel a pang of loss. A missing screw in my system. I feel a deep, warm desire to share what I see and hear and feel with someone else. 

Although it sometimes stings to feel alone in these flashes, I remind myself that intentional solitude can be incredibly restorative. I practice self-love in the moments I experience this city on my own. I wander for the sake of wandering and note for my own sake everything I feel, even when those feelings sting. On these walks, solitude stops being something to fear and instead becomes a welcome moment of reconnection with myself.

Regardless of your romantic entanglement status, I recommend you never stop taking time for yourself and only yourself. Take a few hours of distance to stop rushing past yourself. Think beautiful and painful and complicated and tiring and alarming and funny and enlightening and blank thoughts as you process your life at a pace that is entirely your own.

Afterwards, you can always return to the people you love being with. You can return to the tasks and errands and assignments that rule life at college. You can return after having stepped back to then move forward with renewed energy and drive.

Self-love in the form of a self-reflective walk is not a panacea for your woes. It is, however, a simple way to grant yourself the space you need to grow.

So, dear reader, step into your walkin’ shoes, put your phone on do not disturb, pop your earbuds into your ears and move. Take some time to value your solitude. You’ll return a little lighter, a little tired and a little excited for what the future holds for you.