Have you ever tried to skip up a particularly steep hill? It’s hard. You move forward (which requires quite of a push), but the whole time you move, you feel the tug of gravity pulling you back down the slope. Now, skipping downhill, on the other hand, is easy and exhilarating! I’ve done both of these recently during my long runs this month.
I really enjoy running. I don’t do it competitively (I don’t think I’m really that fast—good enough to be competitive, that is). Yes, I run for exercise, but I more do it for my mental well-being. It’s been great. The autumn is an amazing time for running. The weather is cool and comfortable. The sun is bright, the sky a vibrant blue, and of course, the trees display their glorious colors. We’re allowed to go on runs off campus at any time (well, whenever there’s daylight), so when I want to go for a run, I usually go off-base so that I can be surrounded by the beautiful colors of fall—and running through residential areas or along long highways is more exciting.
I generally tell people that I go for runs to think. That implies (at least to me) that when I run, I am actively thinking about something. That’s really not the case. It’s more that when I run, I don’t have to think about one thing. I get away from the Academy and just let my thoughts settle out. There is so much activity going on at school and in Chase hall (the dorms/barracks) and when I am at the Academy, my mind is whirling—planning upcoming days, wrestling with homework questions, reflecting on lessons. It never stops. But, when I run, I can leave that all behind at the Academy. I just run and whatever floats to the top of my mind is what I think about. Most of the time it ends up being just thoughts about the landscape and “humanscape” around me (“Watch out for that car before crossing the street.”). Occasionally, a song or part of a song pops into my head and just rolls around over and over again. Even more infrequently, I’ll be struck with a brilliant idea, but when I think about it (see, there I go thinking again), nothing very concrete comes out of my run “think times.” But I think (again with the thinking) that’s a good thing.
This past month has been busy. I’ve been here, there, and everywhere. I have group projects in practically every class, so I’ve been meeting with two, three, four other cadets to work on them. I’m hardly in my room anymore. I, along with other cadets, am confronting the loss of friends as cadets are asked to leave for poor grades or conduct offenses. It is a very dynamic time at the Academy. Amongst all the changes, as one of the Sustainability Club leaders, I am trying to encourage change of my own. For example, the SusClub is working hard to overcome challenges in instituting a recycling training program for cadets in addition to continuing our primary responsibility of providing cadets with opportunities to participate in sustainable activities and to learn more about how to be sustainable here and outside of the Academy. It often becomes frustrating because progress is slow and difficult to attain. I’m passionate about the things with which I am involved here, and when I don’t see (immediate) success, it can be discouraging. Yes, we are moving forward, but I am constantly aware of how easy it is to just slip back to doing nothing. It’s like skipping uphill.
But when you’re on a long run and you’re tired, you can’t just stop. If you do, you won’t make it to the end where you can truly rest. So, I’ll keep skipping until we reach the top of this proverbial hill (or mountain?) and begin the exciting skip down the other side.
More about Justin.