How far would you get if you just kept going?
It’s a question I ask myself every weekday, when my workplace hoves into view. Right now I live two lives: there’s the dayjob/half-dayjob, paying the bills and driving me gently bananas – and there’s the evening/morning job, where I put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, and every makes sense again.
The daywork is at the opposite end of York – 4 miles there, 4 miles back. That’s my walk, Monday to Friday. 8 miles a day. 40 miles a week. 160 miles a month. Almost 2,000 miles a year.
Of course, sometimes I cheat and take the bus. I try to do this as little as possible for two reasons – firstly, a return ticket costs as much as a small semidetached British house in the early ’80s (or near enough), and secondly, thanks to a lengthy quirk of the bus route, it’s only 5 minutes slower to walk. But really, I want to walk. It’s not a great hardship, barring the initial weeks of agony while my pathetically enfeebled leg muscles rearranged themselves into new shapes, night after aching night. An education: I’d fooled myself I was still the 18-year-old gallumping up hills in search of his Bronze Duke Of Edinburgh Award. But time has crept up on me. I creak – sometimes audibly.
But with every week, I take it a little more in my stride. I’m now strong enough to play squash for a frenetic half-hour on a Wednesday, after which I find I can walk home with just a handful of painkillers and the bare minimum of uncontrollable screaming. I can’t eat enough – I simply can’t. And every day I feel more alert, more aware of my surroundings – or at least I would, if I wasn’t disappearing into the depths of an mp3’d audiobook.
But as I approach the steps leading up to work, I know that for the next four hours I’ll be stood at a machine or behind an acre of reception counter – frozen in space and feeling frozen in time as well. And while the world turns overhead and underfoot, I’ll see none of it. But I’m far from unique. That’s the universal call of wanderlust, and I’m one of millions in this regard.
And 5 hours later, I’m back where I started (in perhaps more senses that I care to contemplate).
This is Modern Life. We wear grooves in the world going to and fro, sinking into routines that keep us docile and manageable (to others; to ourselves). Yet some of us, through wisdom, juggernaut gumption or just plain luck, never stop rolling out of the paths that trap others…and keep going.
That’s the appeal of the open road, right there – it goes on and on, and when you finally comes back to where you started in this case, you’ve done a lap of the entire world. Now that’s a rut to fall into.
So I walk my 8 miles a day, feeling stronger and stronger fretting that they’re not in a straight line yet, but taking solace from physical progress in the absence of geographical. Me Strong. 40 miles a week? I’m superhuman! And then I read about Nat Severs (20 miles a day for 340 days) or Karl Bushby. (Well, I console myself, they’re obviously mad).
So I tool back and forth to work, waiting for the magical moment when my evening job brings in more money than my dayjob and makes the latter unnecessary.
And then I’ll be unstoppable.
Your turn. What grooves have you made in the world?