This is a bit different than a lot of posts on this blog. A lot of times I keep this blog as a running diary of experiences in my life, with the future in mind. 20 years from now, I hope to find the contents of this blog and be able to reminisce on my college years fondly.
This post, however, is a bit more personal. I still think it will be a fun one to read in the future, because it documents an important time in my life. This summer, I have really been trying to grow as a person and practice healthier physical and mental habits, and I wanted to write about some of my early successes.
Perhaps the biggest change in my life has been moving in with Elizabeth this summer. As I write this, we are about 98% done with moving in. There are still a few things that need to be done, like putting together our patio furniture and hanging a couple more frames. But otherwise, over the last month we have embarked on a process of buying furniture, putting it together, and moving out of two apartments incrementally while making this one into a home. I’d be remiss here if I didn’t thank my parents and siblings for helping Elizabeth and myself; everything from my parents providing their old couch and armchairs to Taylor donating her old vacuum to Alex helping carry stuff up from the U-Haul they drove from Michigan to Oklahoma helped make this process both affordable and easier. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t think Elizabeth’s mother, who, upon hearing that my family was helping with furniture, insisted on buying whatever mattress we wanted for the bedroom. The support the two of us have received has been overwhelming.
Living in an apartment with a bedroom, living room, and office may not seem like much, but the additional space and the feeling that we can control what goes on inside the apartment have proven to be incredibly beneficial, at least to me, mentally. It stays pretty clean in here, I feel as though I can throw anything out of the fridge before it goes moldy, and Elizabeth and I have nobody to blame but ourselves if dishes pile up. It keeps us honest.
With our additional space, I’ve had some additional free time this summer. That’s allowed me to pick up some habits that I think are good for me. Elizabeth and I went camping at Black Mesa State Park, then we went camping at Rocky Mountain National Park. Heck, we camped in a tent in Tennessee en route to visiting her mom. We even took James and Bradley camping at Chickasaw National Recreation Area last month, although I’m not sure they enjoyed it as much as us. Camping is such a good way to get away from sitting on my laptop, or my phone, or my iPad, and really getting to slow down for a day or two.
Ironically, speeding up is also a way for me to slow down. Throughout my undergrad, I occasionally went on spurts where I would walk. Lately, I’ve found myself checking my phone on walks too, and I really think the added screen time in my life since the coronavirus pandemic set in has had an adverse effect on my mental health. So, this summer I’ve *finally* taken up running and biking as a full-time habit (it’s a lot easier when Elizabeth and I live in the same place, because dirty laundry all gets funneled to the same centralized laundry room). I’m probably run or biked on average 5-6 days a week since the start of July. Compared to what I did as an undergrad, that’s a night and day difference. I enjoy the half an hour where I can live inside my own head; it’s soothing. Elizabeth has been recently joining me for 7:00 a.m. runs – later this month, we’re supposed to do a virtual 5K. I’d love to be able to pull it off, because especially when we’ve tried to exercise together before, it’s always ended without us having the proper motivation to continue. If we can finish the 5K, that’s tangible proof that people *can* self-improve.
Heck, I’m even golfing. It’s free at my complex, because we live at a country club. Why wouldn’t you learn to golf if you could do it for the cost of the cart fee?
I’ve even been eating healthier, by simple virtue of picking up food from Trader Joe’s or Crest instead of Wal-Mart or carry-out. This gives a lot more diversity and health of option. Eating well while I’m on summer break is one thing; to do so when classes begin again may be tougher. To safeguard against falling into bad habits, I’ve bought a bathroom scale and am weighing in before my morning runs. It’s the little things like that that I hope will lead to a better lifestyle as I begin my grad school years.
Self-growth is a weird concept. I’m not entirely convinced it’s a real concept! Are we defined by our innate character, or the actions we choose to make? If we choose different actions, does that make our innate character different? Or are we constantly acting *against* that nature to try and achieve a different version of ourselves that we wish to become? I’m no philosopher, just someone who realizes that they’ve only got one shot at this life and is trying to make the most of it.
What is sure is that in choosing better lifestyle choices for myself, I feel more at ease and have less nagging stress over controllable factors. This will hopefully let me direct my stress where it needs to go when the school year begins. Everything from food choice to workout frequency to workspace cleanliness gives me a chance to be a happier version of myself.