When I first moved to New York City in January 2016, I knew only what I had been shown on visits to my older brother’s apartment years before. As both of us are big runners, later that Spring we were on a run discussing how one of the best ways to learn a new place is to run in it. As I slowly charted out (by foot) my new neighborhood, I very literally pictured the map in my head. And as I’d go beyond a certain street or avenue, I would see the map colored in with my own personal knowledge and lived experiences.
The next almost four years that I lived in that neighborhood took me on hundreds of runs through streets, parks, and paths that I once hardly knew existed. But more than that, I came to every turn and every crossing. I knew where to cut into the park or out of the park depending on how hilly I wanted my workout to be. I knew which courses were sunnier and which had more shade. I learned which public restrooms were tolerable and which… should be avoided.
And I loved it. I loved feeling like I had a totally comprehensive idea of how many blocks made up a mile or what my turnaround point would be for a 5k from here.
Recently, though, I’ve been running in two new places—that of my new neighborhood and that of my partner’s. And in running in these spaces, I’ve found myself creating new charts in my head. If I start at my door, that’s where the turnaround is for a 4 mile run. But if I start by this landmark, I’ll have to go down to that one tree.
In one of these recent runs, I was shocked when I pulled my phone out only to see that I was much further away than originally intended—something I surely would have picked up on sooner if I had been using my familiar markers.
In typing this, I realize that it’s only a matter of time before these new places have their own series of preferred runs… before I know them like the soles of my sneakers too. But right now, I’m basking in these moments of slight surprise and the opportunity to discover new paths.
And all of this had me questioning: What do we see before we’re told what to see? What do we think we know before we’ve discovered it ourselves? What do we box ourselves into before we realize there might be another way? What do we assume we know because we’ve done it one hundred times? When did we decide to stop learning?
What if we made an intentional choice this week to think back—really, deeply, truly reflect back—on how things were when we were just getting started… when everything was new?
Wow. It’s been a while, huh? Who were you then? What have you learned since?
What are you going to learn today?