Serenity happens in the morning. During the wee hours, life and the city still only exist on the outside and the mind unshackled can relax, explore and enjoy the cool waters of other pursuits. This time, most valuable, comes all too infrequently in our busied urban existence. Life sure isn’t that board game with the pink and blue stick people I played as a kid.
Running proves to be somewhat of a necessary exercise in mental clarity and calmness. The more difficult and demanding the day job gets, the more I need help keeping my dreams in perspective. I didn’t wake up one day exclaiming that I wanted to manage a grocery store, but I did arise one morning and decide I needed more income just to stay afloat. It’s a sad but widely-accepted reality. It’s a fact I’ve been fighting my whole life.
Constantly struggling exhausts us in every way, so recharge must happen frequently. Running along the East River consistently amazes me with a scavenger hunt of human experiences. From there, I draw my energy. The revelations that have come during those moments inspire, shock, mystify and bury me. Most importantly — they keep me going.
Twentieth Street east from First Avenue dumps me right into Stuyvesant Cove Park, by far one of the nicest and most underutilized areas in the city. From there, a quick turn south leads down a beautiful promenade pathway right along the river’s banks, where the mental transgression begins. Even though I’ve ran it a 100 times or more, a new adventure always awaits.
Adventure is the light in my life, the fire in my soul. To explore something new ignites my spirit more than anything else. To be amongst those for whom that newness signifies the everyday serves an additional bonus. Simply put, I get goose bumps all over.
Wanderlust led me to New York and it will surely lead me out of here someday. As I make my way down the promenade and into the adjoining park, a large, green highway exit sign on the FDR rekindles a familiar longing for new discoveries and enlightenments in the arms of another place. The local road signs, the layout of intersections, the landscaping of parklands and the knowledge that each scene proves normal for someone out there stirs me up. No force in my life has ever been so strong or remained so vibrant as this wanderlust. No desire this unfulfilled has ever been as disturbing.
My resolve to pursue these passions gets a jump start. The daily grinder no longer has any power to make mincemeat out of me. Overpriced apartment? So what. Go-nowhere job? Who cares? Crowded subway car? Feh! These trivial complications take their proper place at the bottom of the barrel as I brush them off my shoulders. With a bit of the weight removed, the journey continues.
I head for the Williamsburg Bridge. I contemplate the decisions I’ve made in the past, those I’m making in the present and their alignment with my morals and goals. There’s no regret involved. The past makes me who I am today.
I see picnic areas, football fields and even an amphitheater, some of which are rarely used and some, I suspect, never. I remember my many lives — everything from merchant marine to roving journalist to personal chef — some also rarely or never realized. Was all that time and energy for naught? No, those experiences enriched my life and remembering that lightens my spirit, especially in light of my lack of career success thus far.
Rain begins to fall as the sky grows darker and the light fades. It’s a great time to pick up the pace. I’m pushing and forcing. It’s a struggle and I know I’ll eventually cave. Sometimes we have to be uncomfortable and alone. It’s okay. Actually, it improves our physical and emotional health. Wet from sweat and atmosphere, I’m temporarily alone with my mind.
My pace varies in intensity but I never completely stop. The flow of emotions never stops. The ideas never stop coming. The journey only ends if I allow it to. These experiences remind me of why I continue to push on despite few tangible markers of progress. Without their combined force, life becomes meaningless and empty. Just like an electric car, they’ll take you wherever you want to go so long as you recharge the batteries once in a while. The adventure continues and I’m all smiles about that.