I love being outside. There’s just something about the outdoors that sends me into a trance.  As soon as I step outside the door, all I can do for the first few minutes is stand motionless and take everything in. However, due to the weather and my attempts at social distancing, I’ve been going outside less. On most days, the most exposure I get to the outdoors is opening my curtains and letting the light pour in through my room. But, on the occasions I do go outside, I make the experience brief and meaningless. Once the initial glow of being outside wears off, and my trance ends, I immediately put on my headphones and start walking. 

When I am wearing my headphones, the song I’m listening to can transport me four years into the past or a couple of years into the future. Sometimes I get so absorbed into a song that I don’t even realize that there are people around me. On other occasions, I am more focused on the light glowing from my phone screen, than the light beaming down from the sun. 

Lately, I have noticed that this habit of depending on music to keep me entertained has become troublesome. As someone who has always felt deeply connected with the environment, it saddens me to realize that I have become so accustomed to having a barrier between myself and nature. For some reason, the rustles of trees, the cries of pigeons, and the moans of the wind don’t excite me as much as a soft voice over a beautiful chord progression. Although I believe that there is nothing wrong with listening to music while going for a walk, there is a problem with me using music as a tool to disassociate from the present. So, I have been trying to find ways to rekindle my connection with the environment.

My first attempt at rekindling my connection with the environment has been through rediscovering ways to be entertained by being outside. I have done this by honing in on one or two of my senses every time I’m outdoors. Sometimes I might focus on comparing the shapes between a row of trees or the differences in paint on neighboring houses. Or, I might try to track how many distinct sounds, like a muffled conversation, a car door slamming, or a store bell ringing, that I hear on the way to my destination. Although these activities initially felt forced and strange, they have become second nature to me now. Most importantly, tuning into the world that rests outside of my earbuds and around my phone has made me feel more alive and reminded me that I am living in the present. 

In all fairness, the present times aren’t peachy. With each day that passes, the thought of things ever being “normal” again seems to sink under devastating headlines and ceaseless tragedies. However, I still want to be present during these times. As a person who enjoys creative writing, I look for inspiration in my surroundings. So, I want to get the full, unfiltered picture of how things are now.

Although times are not ideal, and I’m sure you also dread staring at your lectures through screens, I encourage you to try to enjoy these moments a bit more. Take your headphones off, put your mask on, step outside, and admire all of the things that remind you that you are alive.