7 Nov / Day 24 / Coventry
Yesterday I walked around Tocil Wood in the University of Warwick where I'm staying (with Jaslyn), and walked and walked and ended up at the math building and walked on beyond Heronbank to some farmy area outside the university where there was no one around to see me fall in mud. Yes, I was wearing my suede boots, the only pair of footwear I brought with me beyond London. Today I'm still determined to check out the woods, although equally as determined not to fall. I set out in the same pair of boots - they're already muddified, anyway - and walk through Tocil Wood this time, out of the University again. I have to get back by noon to go with Jaslyn and her friends to Birmingham.
By the time I'm out of the University, it's already past ten. I see a Wainbody Wood on Google Maps that's really big, so I head towards it. I don't expect it to be such a long walk.
Tight on time and aware that I'll be taking the same amount of time to get back, the walk down this endless road seems to take forever. The blue dot on Google Maps never seems to touch the woods. Then finally, Maps says I should cross the road and turn into a smaller lane.
I'm really anxious about the time now - it's eleven and I haven't even entered the woods yet! - so I take the first entrance that I see (first picture). It's lovely and woody, and I'm excited, but after a while the path gets too muddy for my noob boots. But I really want to continue...it looks so pretty up ahead... I don't want to turn back when this path looks like it's going to get really pretty...
I hear the tinkling of bells before a bunch of dogs appear, followed by a friendly woman who tells me I should go back to the small lane and walk a little further, to a different entrance that will lead me to a less muddy path. Reluctantly, I turn back, abandoning the beauty of the forest that seems to lie just ahead. If only I could walk a little further down this path.
I find what seems to be the main entrance. It's very pretty, trees and leaves all around, and every now and then when I take my eyes off the mud on the ground (very cautious about falling now!), I think, wow, look at what lies ahead! It seems to be a nice clearing / nice stream / nice dense area / nice leafy ground / group of pretty trees up ahead! I've got to get there!
And every time I reach 'that point in the distance' I realise I'm not in some nice clearing or in any area that's any prettier than where I was before, but then I see another point in the distance and think HEY it looks like something pretty lies ahead! and set off again.
Thing is, I never reach a nice clearing or stream or any point of breathtaking beauty, any point that's any prettier than the other, before it's time to head back. Now, I realise that I kept thinking that there was a more beautiful area up ahead. Did I appreciate the beauty of wherever I was at those points in time? I was on a constant search for beauty without realising I was already in the midst of it.
The most important thing, then, was that I treasured each moment of being in the woods, taking in the beauty of every second. I hope I didn't neglect the beauty of the present in my pursuit of greater beauty that lay ahead. The future was no more beautiful than that present. Each second was equally beautiful.
You know, you always hear people say "I just have to get through these few months, and then I'm out of here". We perpetually see ourselves as stuck in a crappy situation, when the good stuff lies just ahead. All we need to do is grit our teeth and get through this tough period, and then forget about it forever.
But that way, we'll never find true happiness. Truth is, every stage of our lives contains an obstacle, whether it's the exams or the army or university insanity or idling around having nothing to do with life. Or the stress of the workplace and the politics, or annoying kids that demand attention 24/7, or a marriage on the rocks. If we keep adopting the same mentality, we'll zoom through life never having found happiness. We'll be lying on our deathbeds thinking, what happened to the life I was supposed to have, what happened to the good times I promised I'd get to?
It might not be the most ideal of situations, but treasure every second of the experience. If it's a bad one, we'll learn from it, and someday we'll look back and laugh at the days we allowed ourselves to fall. If you're in the middle of doing pushups for an hour straight in the sun with a heartless guy a year older than you breathing down your neck, someday you'll look back at the memory and admire your tenacity. You'll bask in the glory of the suffering. If you're on your bed crying and wondering if you'll ever get over that asshole, one day you'll look back at your younger days with a melancholic fondness. You'll look back at the strength you managed to muster and say you did well.
Stop yourself from time to time and ask if you're treasuring the present. If you aren't, change your attitude, or change the situation. The future isn't going to be any more beautiful than the present; all we have to do is remember to look up from the mud ever so often.