Note: A version of this post will appear in the May issue of Njuspeipis, the student newspaper of Kauno Technologijos Universitetas (KTU).
I got lost in the woods the other day.
Or, more accurately, I lost myself in the woods the other day. But it was a good thing, a great thing. Looking back at the experience, I can see that losing myself was a necessary escape that I couldn’t do without.
You see, I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure lately. I’ve been feeling the pressure to do well in my classes, to commit to a career, to plan a future. On top of that, I’ve been thinking a lot about the decisions I’ve made in the last few years. Did I choose the right graduate program at my university? Should I even be in graduate school? Am I on the path toward what I want or just what I’m settling for?
These pressures had built up to the point where I felt like I couldn’t move, or that any move I made had to be the right move. But I was so overwhelmed that making any move at all seemed impossible. When I wasn’t in class or at work, I just lay on the couch staring at the ceiling—paralyzed and guilty.
Then, the other day, I forced myself to do something to break my paralysis. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I need to escape, and my favorite form of escape is aimless walking, wandering—just me and my footsteps. It’s not important that I know where I’m going; it’s only important that there is somewhere for me to go that is not the space I share with my anxiety.
So, I set out for a walk around Kaunas. With heavy footsteps I wandered down unfamiliar streets, up unfamiliar steps, along unfamiliar paths, and before long I found myself in a sprawling, forested park—Ąžuolynas. I hadn’t paid much attention to how I got there, so I wasn’t quite sure how to get back, but it didn’t matter. As soon as I looked around and saw what I was surrounded by—thousands of oaks awakening from their winter slumber, a forest floor splattered with patches of wildflowers, a flowing stream caressing the pebbles of its bed—all that mattered was that I was there and nowhere else.
I continued to wander. Every step that took me deeper into the forest took me further away from my anxiety. I soon wandered off the trails and into areas where I could see nothing but trees, hear nothing but birds, feel nothing but peace. The spring sun fell onto a forest floor covered in the crunchy detritus of winter. I began to kick the dead leaves into the air, walking—nearly skipping—through the broken brown confetti I’d created. I kicked and shuffled, shuffled and skipped, spun around in an awkward dance, losing myself in the surprising joy of it all, and then…
…I stepped into a leaf-hidden hole and fell flat on my face.
And I started to laugh. Out loud and at no one, for no one, but myself. I laughed at my clumsy fall. I laughed at how wonderful and silly I felt, out in the woods, playing like a child. I rolled onto my back and laughed as I threw handfuls of leaves into the air. I hadn’t thought of school or work or even life for several hours. I felt happy.
When I emerged from the woods, I was dirty and covered in pieces of leaves, yet I felt clean, unburdened. I found my way home on lighter, less rigid footsteps, and when I walked in my door, it was all still there: all the work, all the pressure, all the worry. But somehow it didn’t seem as daunting. It didn’t seem as important. Yes, I still had to address it, but after my walk, I felt like I had the energy and the will to address it. I felt like I could live with it rather than be paralyzed by it.
And all it took was for me to wander, to trip and let myself fall.
All it took was a brief escape.
2 thoughts on “Six: Escape!”
Oh yes, nature heals. Maybe not our physical layer but the mental and emotional ones. I saw your recent pics on FB. I have never seen you smile before. Ever. Everyone escapes, but they usually use ways that don’t heal. In regards to nature, it seems one of the most beneficial ways to do it. In regards to planning steps for the future, there is no wrong way to do it (unless you want to go around and shoot people). So, don’t let that bother you. While society has certain expectations, in my old age I care about them less and less. When you come back, seek out the woods more often. The USA isn’t that old, so you will have to find nature’s ancient wisdom, but it is there.
yes, Yes, YES! You made a valuable discovery.