What I miss most from grad school is “free” access to the gym. And I don’t think it’s because now I’m unable to maintain my stunning physique. I think it’s because of the time that daily break allowed me to step out of my life in almost every way and think about it–or not think about it, if that was the way my day was going.
It was less than an hour where I let go of everything weighing on me. The only thing I needed to accomplish was movement for 30-40 minutes. I didn’t even need to feel guilty about not staying longer because the campus had a 30-minute time limit per machine.
Gyms are nice for the anonymity allowed. There is no expectation to socialize with anyone. An unspoken agreement exists between members to let each other sweat in silence. So if I felt good one day, I’d silently compete with the skinny sorority girl perfectly made up, but sweating alcohol through her pores to my right. If I felt crappy the next day, I’d shut out the rest of the world, sit on the bike with the easiest settings, and read Entertainment Weekly with the Black Keys in my ears, drowning out whatever upbeat pop song the gym kids had playing.
Either way my brain had time to stop. I was being productive so I could shut down the to-do list constantly muttered in the back of my brain. (Actually it was probably more in the top of my brain, watching over every other thought, haunting myself if I got off track.) But for these minutes that list took a break. And other thoughts could have a go. They were mostly meaningless thoughts about who the Bachelor would pick or which color I would paint my toenails in May, once I was done with school and had spare time.
But sometimes profound thoughts would creep in out of nowhere, too. Like one time when I realized leaving the country during the summer would force me to take time to really see what life might offer me next, and I wouldn’t even have to be technically “moving back home” while I did that. (Not that I mind using my parents’ fully-equipped kitchen and fancy bathroom and paid-for cable channels. It’s more about the ideas I’m afraid it gives people about me.) Or the time I came up with adding raspberries and swapping the milk chocolate for dark in my favorite chocolate cake for added moisture and pretend health benefits.
I guess my point is, I didn’t realize how important that time was until I moved away and kept waking up disappointed I didn’t have a gym to go to.