The Art of Walking

The Hills.

I have discovered the most amazing, yet ordinary thing that has been keeping me sane for the past few weeks: walking. Before you start rolling your eyes, let me elaborate. Obviously, for most of us, walking has been a mindless feat (pardon the pun) ever since we transitioned from crawling. It’s something that we all do, but hardly ever think about. I know that that’s the case for me. I hated walking from place to place, yet I had to make do with my feet, my scooter, and public transportation until I learned to drive when I was 19. I hated those dreaded walks to the bus stop, to school, to work, from class to class in my humongous community college. I was quite the lazy gal, to be perfectly frank.

However, all of that changed a few weeks ago after I hit a slump and decided that I needed to jump-start a positive ignition for myself. I decided to work on my physical health… maybe if I look better, I’ll probably feel better… so I started running. I ran around my university. I ran in the redwoods. I ran all around the streets of Berkeley in these Adventure Runs. I ran around the most beautiful lake (Lake Merritt). I ran with some of my cross country friends at the crack of dawn. It was exhilarating to feel a burst of energy after every run. It felt amazing to look at my fitness tracker and see how many miles I did. My friend, Drew, and I even made a pact to run a set amount of miles every week! But if I can be completely honest with you, I really do not like running… I have never been a big fan, but I almost felt forced to do it. And of course, I hate anything that feels like a chore.

So one day, I just walked. I walked way up in the swanky neighborhoods of Oakland Hills, telling myself to take it all in and absorb the view of the bay. To my surprise, I absolutely loved it… I ended up sauntering through the winding streets for a couple of hours as if time escaped me and I forgot all other obligations. I thought to myself, this could become a thing!

And it sure did.

A little background story: As most of you probably know, I am a Resident Assistant in my school. Luckily, we have been blessed with the most amazing supervisors and admins that support us with anything and everything; not only are they my superiors, but they are also my friends. So it was not uncommon for me to ask my boss, Justin, if he wanted to walk with me to the local Farmers’ Market one Sunday morning. I knew Justin liked to stay active and go on adventures, so of course he was totally down! But little did I know how much walking has impacted him…

Since he graduated from college, Justin had been overweight and didn’t put much thought into his diet or exercise. However, a couple of summers ago, something triggered in his life that made him realize that he couldn’t continue with his comfortable lifestyle any longer– so at that exact moment, he went to the dumpster, threw away the eighth slice of pizza that he was about to devour, and resolved to change his ways. In addition to incorporating a healthier, more balanced diet, he walked everyday… and if you saw him now, you would NEVER think that he was the least bit overweight.

After learning more and more about his health journey, Justin has inspired me to become a better version of myself. Since that trip to the Farmers’ Market, I’ve ventured on plenty of walks and hikes all over the Bay Area, with Justin, other friends, or solo. I’ve seen new sights and experienced triumphant moments of disbelief (Did I really just conquer the behemoth monstrosity of Mission Peak?! Did I really cover eleven miles trying to find secret rooftops and covert zen gardens throughout San Francisco?! Did I really walk fourteen miles just to run across the Golden Gate Bridge?! Yes, yes I did). I feel incredible, like I’m some kind of invincible walking machine.

I have never felt confident about my body shape and weight, especially when I compare myself to my siblings, my mother, my peers, and to strangers that I see on social media or television. I felt so much pressure to try and be skinny, but it had always been difficult for me to stay slim. As hard as I exercised, I’d feel as though the tiniest morsel of food made a noticeable impact on my body, so essentially, eating caused an internal, shameful conflict instead of enjoyment and pleasure… Feeling beautiful was a concept so difficult and far. I reveal these unhealthy, dark thoughts so that I can be completely transparent. I think it is important for me to share how walking these great distances has boosted my confidence and guided me to become more optimistic about life.

Aside from the pounds that I have shed and all the physical benefits of walking, it has definitely made me appreciate life so much more. In every new place that I visit, I see all sorts of flora and fauna. Beautiful birds, deer, livestock. Exotic plants, infinite grassy knolls, deep seas and lagoons, indescribable colors of flowers. I surely cannot ever take Mother Nature for granted when she is at her finest.

But most significant and outstanding of all are the interesting individuals that I encounter. I see people enjoying life– happily walking their dogs, leisurely chatting in cafes, majestically basking in the sun. These are people that motivate me to live my life to the fullest and appreciate even the simplest of things, like the art and privilege of walking.

And then I see people who have it a lot harder than I do– homeless, hungry, and cold individuals. People who do not seem to be in the right state of mind. People who express anger, walking through the streets with tattered clothes and cardboard signs. These are the people who remind me over and over again that there are bigger problems in life than my waistline or what low-calorie organic food I want to consume today. I shake my head at these selfish thoughts and think about the poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and the corruption in our society… I meditate upon these thoughts and realize that I have been blessed with the ability to not only reflect, but potentially do something about these issues that nobody wants to talk about.

In addition to Justin’s inspirational journey, my other supervisors, Allison and Amanda, have also been incredible sources for motivation and self-love. Al reassures me that it is completely normal to have doubts and fears, but it is a matter of accepting whatever life throws at us and finding peace of mind and heart in whatever way we can. We remind each other to prioritize our own happiness despite our fast-paced, hectic lives. She has guided me to be a more well-rounded, mature individual and continues to teach me that there has to be a balance in life in terms of indulgence and discipline. Amanda makes me speechless in everything that she has accomplished in this past year, whether it is with her incredible weight loss journey, her admirable ability to hustle and land a dream job, and the selfless time she dedicates in helping us plan programs or making little treats for us. She is living proof that where there is a will, there is a way. I am so blessed to have these three people in my life who push me to be better every single day in every single way. They have inspired me more than they know… I am so lucky.

TL;DR? Walking has opened up gateways that were unbeknownst to me.

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