February 7, 2013

Your Path is Easiest and Probably Won't Kill You

The snow came down in thick sheets today all across the city. It was the kind of snow that blanketed the streets, hid the sidewalks, and fell fat and heavy from above. This type of weather is truly amazing and offered more than only a reason to wear a scarf and gloves.

All around is evidence of people walking in some direction. Some of the paths are similar while others make no sense at all. The paths belong to men and women, animals, and children too. Every intersection holds the proof of hundreds of people walking through their day, towards a destination and closer to some intended goal. For some it's home, for others it's work, some are simply walking dogs, and some brave souls are even out for a run. Every story is captured on the street during days like this.

As an experiment, I walked across a parking lot. Granted there were more tire tracks than footprints, but nonetheless, there was a good deal of data to work with. I wanted to know, could I walk in the identical path of someone else, step for step, stride for stride, left-right, left-right? I set a goal: get across and into the grocery store. Let's go...

The first few steps were easy. I felt good about this goal. However, with time, it became difficult to keep up with how the person angled his/her feet, how he veered step after step, the amount of pressure one ankle had compare to the other, did he slip here? Should I? I had to concentrate, so much that, whoops...that driver almost reverse into me. I fatigued and still had more than half the lot to go.

Forget it. Let me just get across. I'll walk my way, the way I'm comfortable, the way I know how. Besides, with all the tracks, tired treads, and intercepted paths I doubted if I was still on the path I originally picked anyway? It got confusing, time consuming, wore me down, and almost got me killed.

Finally, I crossed, and very quickly after just walking the way I know how. I turned around and was actually able to trace steps that belonged to me. It wasn't clear where or how they began, but somewhere out there that path included all of my steps. The experiment was over. I smiled at all the paths knowing that whatever the goal, it was achieved easiest, fastest, and most confidently when the steps getting us there were unique and one's own.

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