take a walk

A lot of the writing I’ve been doing lately (or had time to do or been able to finish because I’m being graded) is for my Writer’s Craft class. The last unit we worked on was memoirs, and for my final assignment, I had to write one about my life. If you don’t know, a memoir is somewhat like an autobiography but rather than looking at your whole life, you focus on one specific part or “episode”.

The “episode” I wrote about was a terrible two weeks I experienced last November, where I reached what I would consider my lowest point so far in my life. I won’t say much more, so as not to give anything away, but this piece took a fair amount of effort to put into words because of how personal it is. I’m pretty proud of it, though it could be better. Whatever, I’m sharing it anyway!

– – –

I still feel it. I’ll likely always feel it. I can imagine it’ll rest endlessly somewhere in the back of my mind, somewhere I cannot ever reach. I’ll never have the satisfaction of grasping it with my fingers and digging it out, bit by bit. But now, more than ever before, I feel like I can handle it, ignore it, or at the very least, endure it. I’ve reached a place where, all bad things aside, I am happy. I have made it so far. I am surrounded by people who love me unconditionally, I can see a future for myself, and even though it creeps up whenever the hour gets late and I remain awake, I now know I can rise the next morning and live another day. There is people to talk to, places to escape to, and fresh air to breathe. Just take a walk.

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With every passing moment, my heart beats faster and faster. I feel my throat closing, causing my breathing to grow laboured. Warmth washes over my body in waves and sweat beads under my arms. The sounds of the hallway blur together into one thunderous symphony. Before I can register what I’m doing, my legs are bringing me to standing and carrying me down the hallway. Nora* and Alex* say nothing as I pass; I can imagine they are too busy wrapped in each other’s arms. I feel tears ready to emerge as my breathing evolves into hyperventilation. The doors ahead of me seems so far away, but I reach it quickly and throw them open. The world falls silent as the doors slowly creep closed behind me, as if I’ve gone deaf. I take a second calculating my next move. Again, my legs seem to decide for me; I am moving once more. The autumn wind introduces itself to my bare arms as I travel through another set of doors. Our lunch hour is running out, so I cannot go far. My mind somehow retrieves a memory from years ago. There is a place close by where I can sit and calm down, and I begin my journey towards it. The ‘crunch’ of the fallen leaves beneath my shoes fills my ears, and soon enough, I can see my destination. A quick sprint across the street leads me to a patch of greenery between a fence and a forest, where a rock juts out of the ground. I sink downwards until my jeans meet cold stone, while my backpack slides off my shoulders and onto the grass. My heartbeat gradually returns to normal along with my breathing as I welcome fresh air into my lungs and release the suffocating air from inside.

The indoors are not my friend. I am being smothered every second I spend trapped between four walls. Being outside, where the air grows colder every day, I am reminded that I am alive. I feel like I can breathe. The goosebumps that travel up my arms feel welcoming compared to the numbing claustrophobia I experience when stuck within my house or the school. So, naturally, the only place indoors where I feel as collected as being outside is the skating rink. I feel drawn to it. This is why I am now spending my precious lunch hour and part of my spare by myself, skating laps around the Walter Baker arena.

A cloud of my own making appears in front of my face with every exhale. My jean jacket does little to keep me warm and my skates, which are a size too small, cause my feet to cramp, but I force myself to continue moving, even as my body screams for relief. My chest rises and falls in a steady rhythm, mimicking the songs that blast into my ears and block out the sounds of skates scraping against the ice. The other skaters are all double my age and glide leisurely, whereas I have lapped them all several times over, my legs pumping with great force. I am releasing all my emotions; they spill out from the blades of my skates onto the ice and from my mouth into the space around me. I embrace the cool air, knowing it will only last so long before the time runs out, the buzzer sounds, and I, and the other skaters, will make our way back to the dressing rooms. This feeling of freedom and release will fizzle as I untie my skates and walk back to class, so I hold a smile on my face as I travel around the rink.

Happiness is short lived at this point in my life. I find myself lying on the floor in my bedroom, comfortably stretched out in the Emma-sized space amongst all the mess. I begin by staring at the ceiling, examining the bumps and divots. A song floats through the air, greeting my ears but not registering within my brain. My thoughts travel elsewhere, as the sensation of nothing that envelopes my form is soon accompanied by an indescribable sadness. I can feel heat rising up my neck and I stretch my fingers apart in an attempt to bring feeling back to my body. My breaths speed up, escaping from my mouth rapidly and uncontrollably. I reach my hands to my neck, where I claw at numb skin until my hands fly to my mouth to keep the oncoming sobs from escaping too. I imagine myself as a fish out of water, convulsing and crying out for air — flopping around awkwardly on the floor.

Eventually, I calm myself. The carpet tickles my skin as I rest my limbs back down onto it, the only indication of the previous events being the sharp intakes of breath that lead me back to a steady pace.

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She confronts me over Facebook Messenger a little while after I return from today’s walk.

Walking has become my thing. I’ve taken to doing it everyday. Ever since discovering my need for fresh air and rediscovering the rock I disappear to at lunch, I am on a mission to find more places hidden in plain sight. Barrhaven may be a small neighbourhood, but I manage to stretch out my strolls to a few hours as I head from destination to destination. I always return home beforehand, where I pack a bag with my book, a water bottle, some snacks, and my hat and mitts. Once I get these staple items, I’m off. My first stop is a picnic table near my old elementary school — I sit here to eat my snacks and hydrate before continuing my trek around my small town.

Walking settles my nerves after the long days at the school, where time shuffles forward; teasing me. Walking, with the chatter and buzz of Barrhaven seeming particularly far away, the cool breeze draping itself around my frame, and my legs pushing on endlessly, leading me forward, causes me to feel disconnected from everything around me. As if I am but an onlooker, separate from the story, watching with little interest. Initially, I was isolating myself from everyone around me because I thought it was what I needed. I thought I needed time to be with myself. Before, when I was constantly bombarded with messages from friends, rowdy group chats, and heated conversations in person, my life revolved around my friends. There was never space to consider other things. Now, my world is silent. I spend a lot of time thinking. Being alone more often than not does that to you. I have come to the realization that isolating myself, that disappearing from the world, was not good for me. I have lost my support systems in the time that I have detached from my friends. Every day where I evade them in the hallways, every day where I race home after school without a word at the lockers, every day where I mute our group chat and put my phone face down drags me further and further away from them. It has reached a point where they are mere acquaintances; people you pass in the hallways without a second thought. I feel a deep sense of apathy towards them. They are abandoning me during a time of need. I am crying out for help and distancing myself is my way of doing so. Yes, I wanted to be alone. However, the fact that none of them felt it appropriate to ask me how I was doing or what was going on gnawed at my brain and felt like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I wanted them to care, which I knew they did, but I wanted them to show it. My self-inflicted isolation had begun as a personal choice. I thought it was best for me and I had no other motives behind it.

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I didn’t reap the rewards from separating myself from my friends. The discovery of my love for walks and fresh air helped me find a balance and stay afloat, but there was no chase or heartfelt moments. No, it just left me with nothing to lose.

* Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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