My pedometer is an optimist. It always says that I am running, when in reality I just walk very quickly. While I know this should have no effect on my day, it hurts to have the application on my phone telling me another way in which I am a failure. To its movement-sensing technology, I appear to be the world’s slowest runner.
The point is not the many ways in which I fail or my actual running speed, but to ask myself: Why am I always in such a hurry? While I have a schedule full of classes, work and meetings, so does every other student at the University. Yet, it is only some students who walk like someone trying to race a bicycle, outrun adulthood or perform some more difficult feat.
I am almost always 15 minutes early to class. I don’t know why. I think I am worried that I will forget where I am going or I will forgot my homework and have to give myself enough time to run back and retrieve it. Neither of these things has ever happened. I use the extra time to walk across the Diag and back or take a lap around the MLB.
When I am at home with my family, we go on walks down the dirt road we live on. Since I can remember, I have found myself at least 20 strides ahead of the pack (a small pack, that is). During walks, my (hilarious) dad often shouts up to me to ask how the weather is. Sometimes, after turning around to stick out my tongue, I reassure myself that I like to stretch my legs with the fast pace. Other times, I reassure myself that I like the space between us to think. And when I’m not doing that, as my (brilliant) twin sister hustles to stay beside me, I tell myself I just have to beat her at this one thing.
But that (obviously insane) determination does not exist for me here. I do not have a person to irrationally compete against, nor is it that difficult to find a place to think (well, it is a little). And that excuse about short legs? I am 5-foot-4; my legs stretch easily, they have to stretch to reach the ground as I get out of bed in the morning.
Then why am I in a hurry at home? Why would anyone be in a hurry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? There is not much reason to rush; life there is slow and patient. I would say I am racing to leave, but that would be hurtful, slightly untrue and would not explain the issue here. I think the best way I could describe what I was trying to do was a joke I made earlier. Maybe I try to outrun adulthood, like maybe if I run more quickly then it cannot touch me.
This is something I see students, as well as other members of the University community, try to do every day. Everyone has coping mechanisms. People oversleep or never sleep. They bury themselves in Netflix. They drink way too much. The other day, some friends of mine from high school drove the eight hours to Ann Arbor just to go to the Briarwood Mall, walk around the Diag and leave. On Monday, my friend Haley told me, eagerly yet firmly, that time does not exist. I avoid adulthood by walking quickly, because if I am always moving, always between destinations, I am nowhere. You cannot be an adult if you are nowhere, Haley convinced herself.
But now that I can identify the problem, I can admit a worse fate than the denial of adulthood: accepting it. The other day, one of my classmates asked my Spanish teacher how old he was, and my teacher sucked in his cheeks before bashfully admitting, 24 (but it was in Spanish, so make sure you read it “veinticuatro”). Then he said he felt old. I wanted to shake him, to tell him he was young, so close to my age that if we were dogs we would be the same. I wanted to tell him to slow his embrace of responsibility and he should stay and explore with us, but I am not that good at speaking Spanish and he already thinks I am odd.
Something I have been realizing as I get older is that no one ever knows what they are doing. Yeah, think of that next time you get into a car with your parents or have surgery or ask your GSI a question. It is scary. But, it also puts us all on a similar level. Not to say you are smarter than your professors or Donald Trump (yes, in this case), but I want you to know that adulthood is not something you have to run away from or run toward. When you cross its path, acknowledge that it means very little and walk calmly beside it.
Payton Luokkala can be reached at email@example.com.