Florida summer has arrived. Well, let’s call it spring-summer. If winter is the earth exhaling an icy breath, then spring is a deep inhale. It warms the air in the lungs, preparing to exhale it forth, breathing out a blazing and bright summer. Well, if spring is the earth inhaling, it’s a very short and shallow breath here in Florida, followed by the deep and long exhale of summer. Spring is finally here one moment, and the next, it’s gone, giving way to blistering heat and thick humidity, clinging to your clothes and skin with sticky, wet fingers.
Summer has arrived, conveniently the week that I spend most of my days at school sprinting halfway across my college campus under the sun’s warm, bright face. Back and forth. Back and forth. Deadlines, appointments, papers, and plans. No matter what, it’s never enough. Time is sucked away, and the stress keeps coming. And the hot spring-summer sun whispers in your ear, with every concrete-slapping footfall…
You’re the only one. You’re the only one experiencing this level of stress. The only one finding yourself running from appointment to class to work with as little as fifteen minutes in between to catch your breath. The only one who cares enough about being to class on time to run halfway across campus and make it on time.
The only one who looks like a total idiot, monstrous backpack jerking you from side to side with each footfall, face screwed into an ugly expression, cut by the lines of a deep frown. The only one who can’t control their stress and emotions and pull themselves together. Slap, slap against the concrete. Parched, heaving breaths. Still going to be late. A failure. Always a failure. The only one who knows what it feels like to always be running and striving and never achieving the exact result you want, like a kid in Walmart trying to catch the fluorescent light reflections on the tile. The only one who always seems to be a mess.
Then, what is this? Another back-pack heaving runner, hands gripping the backpack straps at his sides, bending down to create less wind resistance, and dashing headlong for the music building. I dash right in front of him. As I pass, our eyes meet, and we share a tired smile. A brief wave.
“Good luck! You can make it!”
“Gooooooooo! The mad dash!”
And that’s that… we keep dashing on to our individual classes. But, now, I am smiling. It seems odd- why would that make me so happy? But it does. It does because I can see it with my own eyes– the heaving breaths, the heavy backpack, the thudding feet. He understands. He feels the same heat beating down from the sun, heaving the same dry breaths. He, too, will arrive at class sweaty and dissheveled. And he, too, cares about about being on time to dash across the parking lot, as idiotic, comical, and sadly desperate as it may loo.
Even through the heaving breaths, my mind inhales and exhales deeply and calmly again. The all-consuming world of my selfish mind is broken, interrupted, by a fellow runner.
The world I built up in my head– a world of pride and loneliness, failure and fear– is defenseless the moment I see that I’m not the only one who lives in that world. Alone, the selfish world is strong. Together, when humans come to share hearts and open eyes and lift each other up, the lonely world of the mind is broken apart. And the run becomes a joy; a race, even. I arrive panting, but I arrive knowing that I’m not the only one experiencing the victory of finishing a race. That I’m not the only one who walked late, sweaty, panting, and disheveled into the tranquil classroom.
My friend, you are truly understood. There are many who run beside you, past you, before you, to your right, and to your left. We are all sweaty and disheveled, gasping for breath, soul suffocating from the daily races. We are all late, and we are all failures. But we are all understood. And, somehow, knowing that can be enough to get you through the races you run every single day.