I used to run a lot. Sports and I are like the colors red and orange in the rainbow: always next to each other. I hadn’t run for a while because I got tendinitis in my knees, but my physical therapist suggested that I try to run again. I was sort of running from running, so I decided to take Shia LaBeouf’s advice and just do it.
I used to run on pavement, but I found out that it’s actually terrible for your knees, so I tried to find softer ground. I found myself driving to a little spot of woods hidden in the middle of my suburban town. Normally when I run, I listen to music to keep my pace fast, I use a running app to track my speed, and it’s something serious because I’m training for my next season of lacrosse.
But, today, I wasn’t thinking about those things.
I was thinking about how I was kind of nervous and kind of physically impaired. So, I went for an easy jog with no destination, music, pace, and definitely no hubris.
I was amazed at how pretty the quiet sounded.
In modern society, we are always listening to some sort of noise. Listening to music, the news, Netflix, friends, or a crazy boss. We don’t spend a lot of time just listening to the quiet.
This lack of noise made today different. I started to listen to the sound of my feet crunching on the dirt and the way my breath went in and out. It was more like pathetic panting but still, I found something poetic about it.
I took a break and sat on a mossy patch, which felt like earth’s carpet, and I stared at a stream. I could hear the fidgeting of leaves and found a teacup sized chipmunk. He scurried across an old, fallen branch using it as a bridge to cross the water.
I had the simplest epiphany. I would have never seen the chipmunk if I had my headphones on. It was so obvious that it almost didn’t matter, except that it mattered a whole lot. I would have been loving my music, but I would have missed the sound of leaves which was the reason why I thought to look and see what was making that noise. It made me really weirdly happy to see the little woodland creature. A chipmunk just makes me happy.
Sometimes, the world knows just what will make you happy, but we often forget to be willing to listen to whatever that could be.
I would have never had this existential moment looking at a cuter version of a squirrel if I had never started listening to the quiet.
And in the quiet, I found a lot more.
I was surprised at how fun it was to jog without headphones. To do something without never-ending goals to achieve. I felt like I had to run on harder ground to prove something, but found that softer ground, like a softer heart, had a lot to offer.
We really don’t need to prove to anyone that we can run on harder ground, or live life with a harder heart.
The real brave thing is to be soft. To let yourself be affected by the the small things often under appreciated or never looked for at all.
I always thought I needed music because I needed to go as fast as possible. I always thought that I shouldn’t take breaks, but my knees forced me to now. I ran out of options to do what I used to do, but I was kind of happy that I did. I was good at focusing on being fast, keeping my pace, zoning out the world, and not taking breaks. But then I realized that while I focused on all those big things like being fast, being good at sports, and being good at life, I can forget about the small things. I forgot to listen for a chipmunk. I forgot to stop and lay on earth’s carpet. I forgot to stare at the trees above and notice the fifty shades of green that they offered.
What I really forgot to do was to listen to what the world could tell me—and once I started to listen, it started to tell me a lot. Blink 182 sings about the ‘small things,’ and it turns out that the small things can actually make you really freaking happy. So, please listen to what that rock band says.
But, please try and listen to the quiet, too.