It wasn’t the best of mornings. The evening before, my family, friends and even strangers behind me in line at Starbucks had all decided to ask about my career plans. After having to repeat my answer — law school — to at least 11 different people that day, I woke up sadly asking, “Can I really do this?” I found myself prying open the window of doubt, wondering whether I could actually do well in law school regardless of the financial burden, academic rigor and people who told me, “Oh, that’ll be tough.” The familiar concocted bomb of migraine, stress and worry — somehow mixed with the flaring background music from Inception — was making my head hurt, so I stormed out of the house and drove away.
Instinctively, I swerved onto the freeway and got off at Los Feliz. I pressed deeper into the accelerator and was soon parked in my usual spot under the heavy trees of Griffith Park. The park is familiar terrain, reminiscent of family picnics from my childhood and tearful runs from my adolescence. I recently discovered a photo of my mother holding me there at two-months-old, making me even more dedicated than I’d thought. Dismantling the bomb in my head called for a time of separation with speculation, so I stumbled out of my car, sprinted to the mouth of the trail and ran uphill into the Santa Monica Mountains.
Something about the green world of nature right on the outskirts of L.A., far from honks, smog and stress, gives me comfort. Although the park isn’t exactly on my street, I still feel at home when I’m there — especially when I run up the trail leading to and past Griffith Observatory. Walking around Griffith Park isn’t difficult, but running the trails in the entire park isn’t as easy as walking down the street to Alcove Café for that incredible berry cake. Yet the slight challenge is just as sweet.
There have been countless mornings like this one where I found myself sprinting uphill, drenched in sweat and kicking my anxiety away with Griffith’s dirt. My thighs burn, my lungs feel tired and I undoubtedly look hideous, but the feeling is incredible. I have direct access to a peaceful mountain range in the country’s second most populous city, a place where I can collect myself. As the trail soon becomes barren and twirls away from the valley of trees further up into the mountains, I confront my negativity. I tell myself that I will defeat the pain and that the view of L.A.’s skyline is worth the effort.
Once I’m at the top of the mountain behind Griffith Observatory, I sit down and observe everything. I don’t hear the soundtrack of traffic or Inception, nor do I hear people talking much at all — I can only hear myself breathing. I am alive. Behind me lay vast mountains; in front of me the buildings of Downtown and West L.A. stretch off into the distance. Every time I run up from the bottom of Griffith Park with a heavy heart, I end up on the mountaintop with something completely different — a light, free spirit with less bitterness and more courage to go back down tougher, stronger. It is quite the anodyne.