A few days ago it was pleasantly warm, so naturally I was driven to put my pressing academic work aside and head outside. I decided to take a walk through one of my college’s glens. While I was walking, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off, that something was very different about the woods than the last time I was in there. After a while, I figured it out. Being early spring, there were thousands of tiny green plants pushing up from the dead leaves on either side of the path. However, being early spring, above this carpet of new vegetation, the trees were still dark and leafless from winter. The juxtaposition wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but after I noticed it, I couldn’t stop staring at it in shock.
I don’t know why the appearance of the glen was so surprising to me—perhaps I’d never been in the woods at this precise moment between seasons—but regardless, there’s something to take away from the experience. I spent the majority looking around, and most importantly, away, from myself. By focusing on the woods around me, I finally managed to drag myself out of the self-absorbed, often negative, mindset that is my norm. While many philosopher-types who can’t go into the woods without turning it into a grandiloquent statement about life seek out nature for a chance at introspection, I found myself relishing in the chance to look outside myself that afternoon.
I don’t know if I would enter the same state of mind if I went back to the glen tomorrow, but I do want to recapture that feeling of sending my thoughts and energy away from myself back here in society. I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over the future and what others think of me, so of course as a consequence I end up missing a lot. Spending more time observing the world unfolding around me would let me give my friends the attention they deserve, not to mention take up the space in my head where my worries normally go. I’m not sure an outwardly-focused attitude would be sustainable or entirely unproblematic, but trying to shift my attention, however momentarily, seems like a positive challenge. It’s time to get out of my own head.