Every day that I go into the office, I go on a walk. Rain, sun, snow, sleet, whatever. I take my daily walk unless it has a significant chance of being incredibly detrimental to my physical well-being. Even during the peak of tree pollen season, I take my daily walk through my workplace’s parking lots, down the road, through a park that borders my workplace’s property, along a path, and then back up the street to my workplace again. Nothing can stop me except lightning or rain that is heavy enough that I’ll be soaked no matter what I do (I gotta stay at the office after the walk still, so being soaked isn’t really a choice I’d enjoy). I follow the exact same route, pass all the same places, see all the same sights. It is the rock around which the rest of my day is built.
I take a lot of comfort in routine. It is reassuring to know that I can always step outside my building when I need a break, spend my lunch break getting some fresh air, and then return to work. It provides me with an important mental release from the stress of the day, which is typically pretty concentrated into the mornings, given the fact that my employer is an international company and some of the people I work the most with are in a time zone seven hours ahead of my time. We do a lot of meetings, deal with a lot of urgent topics, and then scramble to get everything done before my European coworkers quit working for the day. After that, I usually get a lot of work done on my own and the day tends to be less stressful as there are very few demands on my time that might crop up after noon on any given day. Having my walk between the morning and the afternoon means I have an opportunity to process what happened in the busier part of the day, think through some things of my own, and then come back to the office refreshed and ready to get to work once again.
It is also enjoyable to watch the way the world changes from one day to another. Plants grow, flowers bloom, trees become filled with nesting birds, and the careful maintenance of the local parks department maintains the low grass along the edges of the pathway so that the rest of the park can grow wild. Aside from the locations of the trees themselves and the various habitats set up for native birds, the park shifts just a little bit from each day to the next. Whether I’m walking and talking with a coworker, listening to a podcast, enjoying some music, or just enjoying the cacophony of nature, I am always taking in the park as I walk, doing my best to spot the differences and note how the world around me changes as it merely continues existing. Even when I’m walking around my neighborhood or to the local pharmacy and back on days that I’m working from home, there is always something to show me the subtle but inevitable ways the world changes.
I appreciate these reminders. My own change is rarely so swift and riotous as the sudden appearance of leaves in the spring or the way that a field of green changes to one of scattered colors from the entire spectrum as the wildflowers finally bloom. I feel my change slowly, like a massive tree that eventually begins to scrap against the side of the house after the slow creep of a single branch finally reaches over far enough now that the limb is thick enough to support its own weight without drooping. It is frustrating and even defeating at times to feel like no matter how much I work, no progress gets made. But the change is there, just too small to see when measured from one day to another. Once a tree gets tall enough, you stop noticing how much it has grown until it dwarfs the buildings around it. Once you’ve made enough progress on a problem in your life, it gets difficult to notice each new step until you realize you’re at your destination.
These walks remind me of that. It takes me about half an hour to do each of my loops, a time that can pass with the horrible slowness of ten minutes in a hospital waiting room or the the sudden swiftness of the entirety of a favorite book. It is a passage through a familiar place that somehow manages to be different every single day. It is a habit that became less of a chore and more of a treat the longer I did it. All of which is an important reminder that change is constant but not something that can be measured easily. Sometimes, you have to find the right way to look at it before you start to notice it every day. Sometimes you have to realize you haven’t missed a daily walk in over a year to realize that all your efforts are finally paying out.