I’m not a “live in the past” kind of person. Not because my past is bad (it isn’t), and not because I’m always living in the present (I’m not), but mostly because I’m always jumping ahead to whatever’s next. But every now and then, I get the itch to backtrack into old memories.
We recently had to go to the valley for work, which we were able to tie into a nice long visit with family and friends. With so many people fighting for time to hold the little guy, it’s easier to find a few spare hours to get out on a good run or hike. Little-miss-multitasker that I am, a nice wet run in the valley was also a perfect opportunity for me to test out a big stack of rain gear for Washington Trails Magazine.
Unlike the times where I’m training for a race, I didn’t have any type of plan for this run. As I headed out from my in-laws’ house, I turned left to head toward the city’s limits, outside of which there are sprawling country roads and less traffic. But as I ran, something didn’t feel right. It might have been uncomfortably big raincoat (which I promptly dropped back off at the house), or maybe it was something else.
But suddenly I had an urge to run toward the traffic, through stoplights, and straight down memory lane. I felt like there was an inexplicable force begging me to revisit old streets and relive old moments. This urge hits me every now and then, not out of regret or disappointment, but purely out of a desire to celebrate and revel in the memories that I so love.
So, I ran. I ran farther than I planned. I ran down one of the main city streets, past downtown, and all the way to University of Oregon. I weaved around my old school, past old classrooms and restaurants, along the river I used to ride my bike on, and finally through the heart of campus.
By now the rain was really coming down, but somehow I just couldn’t stop. I was keeping a pretty quick pace, and I just couldn’t tear myself away from this surprise wave of nostalgia. Every drop on my face brought the memories alive a little more. I ran by all the places I lived during my four years at UO, including the “University Inn” dormitory, a huge house across from the old Civic Stadium, a loud townhouse, and finally to charming little place in the neighborhood beneath Hendricks Park.
Knee deep in nostalgia, I fell victim to the same cliché we all do as we get older – time goes by so fast. My heart-rate started to rise and my pace quickened as the urgency of it all hit me like a ton of bricks. What am I doing?? I need to do _____! I need to go _____! I need to teach my son how to ____!” But as I continued on, something hit me.
While much has changed in my own life since those four wonderful years earning my degree at the UO, running through campus really feels no different than it did six years ago. I’ve changed, buildings have changed, and the people have changed, but the general spirit is just as I remember. Somehow that realization turned things on it’s head; in that moment, time felt like it had significantly slowed down. While man-made things rarely inspire the same sense of awe and wonder as the God-made elements of the natural world, I felt a parallel connecting these two domains.
Just like the unchanged vibe of campus did for me on my run, the constants in the wilderness fulfill a longing that somehow forces us to slow down. That alpine lake that you visited with your family when you were a child will have the same mountains around it when you take your own children there. It will have the same adventure-seeking type of people, and the same fresh air. No matter what else changes, there’s comfort in that.
Whether it’s a run through your old town or a hike to the backcountry, find some time to just breathe. Time is going to move at the same pace no matter what. The only thing we can do control is how fast we’re rushing through each moment.
Living in the past may be a waste of time, but popping in for a quick visit can give you a clearer look of where you’re headed.