I agree wholeheartedly with the Augustinian saying solvitur ambulando, it is solved by walking; as I place one foot before the other, my mind in turn is calmed, my thoughts flow, and I am able to work through things. This primarily occurs when I walk alone, yet such moments shared with others have also had a profound effect upon my thinking about a situation.
Certain instances stand out in my mind:
On a September morning, I rode a cable car up to the summit of one of the peaks in the Dolomites; what was meant to be a day of hiking became an extended walking meditation. Never had I felt so close to God, both physically and ethereally; I was overcome by the beauty of the landscape, the seeming fragility of the tiny villages dotting the valley below, the stunning effects of light and color. Following my descent from that mountaintop, cliché though it may seem, there was something in me, however small and slight, that was irrevocably changed. Perhaps it was a renewed sense of hope, of perspective, of connectedness... or perhaps simply of awe of the majesty of nature.
Lucine di Natale, Venezia
On a brisk evening in December, I walked with my best friend through the streets of Venice, laughing and admiring the glittering lucine draped across the streets. Eventually we stopped and sat on the steps lining the arcades on the Piazza San Marco, and talked about our dreams–literal and figurative–and together made a promise to never settle for anything less than we deserve, but to keep growing & seeking and to live our ideals. Since then I have often returned to that moment for encouragement, and I am still striving to honor it.
On a February night, bundled in my down parka, I traversed the overpass that crosses the tracks at the Campo di Marte station, stopping to look at the train schedule, wanting to get on the next train, any train, regardless of its destination– to get away, to escape. Instead I kept walking. As I neared my house, I noticed how the sidewalk beneath my feet shone with thousands of tiny flickers of light, as if it reflected the spangled heavens above.
Rogue Wildflowers, Le Cascine
On a sunny yet chilly day in March, I walked arm-in-arm through the Cascine park with an old Italian flame-of-sorts; although things had never really begun for us, we both knew that they would go no further, and that this was the right thing. After a few months of confusion, the time had come to let go. We walked the entire length of the park, largely in silence, and then went our separate ways.
Via della Pace, Roma
On a marvelous summer's night in Rome, I lead a group of students from piazza to piazza, stopping in each and allowing them to explore. I had been feeling distracted all evening, suffering from some indelible malaise that I had not yet put into words, for then I would truly acknowledge its presence, then I would own it, and I would have to do something about it. I was falling for one of my colleagues. When we stopped at Piazza Navona I needed a few minutes for myself, to regain my center. As I walked, I came upon the loveliest little street: Via della Pace, the street–or literally, the way–of peace. It was just what I had needed. I paused for a moment, taking in the atmosphere with its beautifully lit cafés laden with vines, framing a baroque-era church, and found a glimmer of the peace that I had been seeking.
Firenze di Notte
On a sweltering night in July of last year, I walked home alone after having said my final farewell to my first love (who was, in fact, that former colleague): we had held one another there in front of his apartment on Via de' Tornabuoni for a few eternal moments, shared one last lingering kiss, and then said goodbye. I turned on my heels and walked away, without looking back. I placed my hands over my heart as the tears came, and prayed through them. Not even the next day could I remember the precise route that I had taken: I only remember the rhythmic motion of each step, propelling me forward, and my heart beating beneath my hands. It seemed to last for ages, and yet that was precisely what I had needed it to be. Time to walk, to breathe in and out, and to begin to let go, little by little.
E così via, and so on & so forth. So many times have I walked in search of wisdom, of answers, of peace. I have walked toward things and away from others, walked with a specific destination in mind and wandered aimlessly. I have chosen my own path and surrendered to the Universe, allowing it to guide my steps.
And now I am setting forth once again, putting foot to pavement, and seeking...
For about as long as I can remember, things have come naturally to me; in writing, languages, and music, I have been blessed enough to rely upon my talents, and have achieved wonderful things. I graduated summa cum laude from a prestigious university, became fluent in Italian in less than two years, and worked as a professional musician and teacher, to name a few. And although I work hard throughout these years, always striving for excellence, I cannot truly say that I ever put in 100%.
My talents have thus been both a blessing and a curse. "Imagine how well you would have done if you had given it your very best effort," my father has always told me. My responses were usually of the witty, sarcastic variety, and often seasoned with the grain of salt of youthful defiance. But now I am finally beginning to understand just what these words mean for me, for the direction that my life will take: they communicate the vast expanse between complacency and greatness.
Now that I am in graduate school, I find myself in a place in which, for the first time in my life, talent will no longer suffice; I must work harder than ever before. And frankly, I find this a daunting prospect. No longer can I permit myself to simply get a job done, but rather I must hold myself fully accountable for my work, no excuses, no caveats. I have always been a proverbial sprinter, completing tasks at a whirlwind pace, and yet have hardly begun to develop the endurance necessary for the marathon that is an advanced degree.
I had been feeling rather gloomy about this lately, as I had recently received my first faculty review, in which I was told that I "can and should do better." Not that I didn't do well last semester, but there was still that edge that I was lacking– I had once again relied upon my talents, and they were only able to bring me so far.
I thus proceeded to mope around my apartment for a few days, with a presentation looming over my head like a storm cloud of Eeyore-esque proportions. And then it dawned on me that it is entirely within my power to change this, to grow, to learn to do better and to be better. To be who I truly am: to finally begin to explore the depths of my own capabilities rather than to be content with sailing upon the surface of my potential.
If I have come this far simply through talent, imagine what I might achieve if I finally, completely dedicate myself to the task at hand?
So, these are my new goals: to learn the consistency and discipline that I need in order to complete this academic marathon; to hold myself fully accountable for all that I do and to put in my best effort; and to be grateful to already have all of the resources (inner and outer!) that I need. Greatness, here I come! Un passo alla volta...