It’s nearly 10 p.m. on a weekday night, and my mind can’t stop racing. What started as a kernel of anxiety has grown into an uncontrollable flood of negative thoughts, rushing so fast that I can’t even pinpoint what it is that is making me feel this way — I’m only aware of the all-consuming tensity that seems to have replaced my consciousness.
I often find myself lying in bed mentally paralyzed in this way. Sometimes these thoughts and feelings become overwhelming to the degree that I feel like I might explode, and it is in those moments that I’ve said or done things that I’ve come to regret once I’ve calmed down again. In recent months as these episodes have grown stronger and more frequent for me, I have been searching for coping mechanisms that allow me to release that all-consuming energy and begin to think more logically. And so I’ve made a habit of extracting myself from my wallowing bed, putting on a long playlist on Spotify, and taking nighttime walks alone.
Ever since my first semester on campus, I’ve been charmed by the look and feel of campus at night, and the more I explore, the more beautiful scenes I discover. After the night classes have all finished, most of campus is transformed into a quiet ghost town where the massive buildings that seem so full and vibrant during the day turn dark and somber like forgotten monuments of an abandoned civilization. The library stays open until midnight, its lights glowing like the campfire of its last inhabitants — but eventually those lights go out too, and the campus seems to patiently await the return of the students that gives it life.
At any hour, I’m never completely alone on campus. There are night owls making their way to and from the computer lab in Jody Richards Hall, often clutching coffee in various states of visible distress. There are the groups of people heading toward Subway, laughing and rowdy like you’d expect from people ordering sandwiches at 11 p.m. And then there are the occasional moments I pass another solitary walker, each of us playing a brief supporting role in each other’s sweeping narratives of our lives, two stories intersecting briefly before they diverge again forever.
In my most difficult moments, it can feel like I’ve completely lost touch with reality, my mind alone and adrift on some turbulent ocean. The action of movement can counteract this feeling and attach me back to the real world, which is never as scary as the world inside my own head. With my feet against the ground, pushing myself up the Hill or down Avenue of Champions, the tightness in my chest begins to loosen. When I’m returning home afterward, my body feels blissfully tired, and that exhaustion lulls me to sleep when otherwise I’d be tossing and turning.
One overarching thing in my life that I’m slowly learning is that I have to do what’s best for myself, even when it might feel better in the moment to wallow. Sure, walking around campus at all hours of the night might seem strange, but it heals me a little bit, and that is most important.