On running away

May 1, 2019, 1:00 a.m.

I didn’t know that working out was a habit that normal people engaged in, until I came to Stanford and witnessed a gaggle of students rolling out to the gym in neon sports bras and tightly laced tennis shoes. Ah, so that was why Stanford students were so attractive! Suddenly, I found that my former existence of sitting on an office chair for five hours straight after school, munching on an infinite stream of almonds and salted pistachios, was not the most appropriate lifestyle. Especially at Stanford, I could strive for so much more! The gyms are freely accessible, frequently open, over-equipped and often full of my friends. As a responsible tree, this collection of realizations naturally led me to do … nothing. It seemed that not the dream of better health, convenience, friendship nor a hawt bod could incentivize me to step foot inside Arrillaga and Arrillagua.

But it all changed when winter quarter attacked. Around Week 4, I realized my course load was crushing me a little more than expected. The tiny claws of random deadlines for big projects and tiny quizzes accumulated, dragging me into the depths of Green library at 3:30 a.m., occasionally surrendering to lonely internet procrastination. During one particularly despairing night, I faced a marathon of lonely internet procrastination (Steve Harvey’s Little Big Shot!) until 4:50 a.m., at which point I heard the first rustles of people waking up, so I threw my slothful hands into the air and dove into bed. No time to plan off-campus excursions. No time to attend the events and shows pouring through my Facebook. No time to just sit back and think freely and delightedly for myself. Even my reserve of interesting music dried up, my Spotify so overplayed that I felt sickly, uncreative and uninspired just looking at my playlists. Essentially, I had a classic winter quarter, filled with the desensitizing avalanches of rain, work and weird abstract emotions.

One night, I surfaced from my laptop, looked at the clock and realized I felt like I was decaying from the busy monotony of everything. So I got my shoes, my earphones and my phone, and I ran. I looped around Lake Lagunita at 1:30 a.m. in the pitch black, the 40-degree weather numbing my nerves and tiredness. I intensely focused on the music, on keeping my feet from tripping over rocks, and at the same time I mentally blanked out with the determination that comes from weeks of thinking about so much of nothing. For the next couple weeks, each time I felt my concentration drift, or after it had drifted for a couple hours, I burst into the biting winter wind to literally run away from my problems. I took casual loops around the campus, sinking into the beauty of Stanford at its darkest and most isolated. 12:45 a.m., 2 a.m., 3:15 a.m. — these intimate hours became my only consistent escape, free from the need to do work, free from the need to effusively converse or even interact with others when I really wasn’t feeling it.

So at the end of the day, I have found my incentive to exercise. You’ll never catch me in the Stanford gyms, bouncing and wiggling my hands to Zumba on bright Friday afternoons, but if you’re still awake, you might glimpse me oblivious to the world, dashing across Main Quad during a crisp early, early morning.

Contact Millie Lin at milliel ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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