I’ve witnessed a variety of emotions since coming back to campus: nostalgia, excitement for new beginnings, even anxiety about making friends and being back in social situations. Through all these feelings, there seems to be a consensus among students about one in-person activity in particular: walking around campus. Over the last two weeks, I’ve heard some variations of the following statements:
“I can’t just roll out of bed and log on to class anymore.”
“One thing I didn’t miss about campus is the walking.”
“A perk of Zoom was I didn’t have to walk up the stairs.”
It seems that most students are still getting used to UCLA’s unforgiving hills, steps, and never-ending inclines. These hills are nothing to exaggerate about. After all, UCLA isn’t jokingly named the “University of Calves, Legs and A**” for no reason. However, I am in the minority when I say that walking to class was one of the things that I missed most. A lot of this reasoning comes from my disabilities. Having ADHD and anxiety gives me a different perspective on multiple things in life, including the twenty-minute walks to class.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the walking is just as hard for me as it is for everyone else and I am not athletic at all. In fact, most people easily speed by me when walking up the Hill or the Death Steps, and my Apple Watch never fails to ask me if I’m “exercising outside” when I’m just walking up to Royce. However, I still love walking. ADHD is different for everyone who has it, but ever since I was little, it always gave me an extra burst of energy that impacted my concentration. Unfortunately, medication is not always enough to calm my extra adrenaline. In addition to my mental disabilities, I also have a condition called Marfans, which impacts my heart. Therefore, I can not take the traditional stimulants that doctors use to treat ADHD. I take a small dose of a non-stimulant medicine instead, and it helps, but it isn’t a miracle worker.
So, how do I get this extra energy out? Walking. Walking to class, the dining halls, and even into Westwood tremendously helps to improve my concentration. When I sit down in class or a study lounge, I am so much more focused because my mind is cleared and free of excess energy. I feel less distracted, my attention span is longer and I am able to get my work done in a more efficient manner. Paired with my anxiety, ADHD also gives me a continuous train of thought that sometimes feels uncontrollable. Having the time during my daily walks helps me filter through what’s important, whether I’m listening to music or talking to my parents on the phone. It becomes easier for me to focus on what is important. While I worked out and exercised at home last year, nothing compares to the constant walking that UCLA provides me with to help my brain.
Finally, walking gives me a sense of accomplishment. Even on days when my mental health is bad, I can still think, “At least I walked to class today”. I can’t help but smile when I get an alert that my move ring on my Apple Watch closed or I gained more exercise minutes. These small accomplishments encourage me to take care of my body through food, self-care and even additional exercising on some days. It overall improves my mental and physical health.
However, not everyone is like me. Most people hate walking to class, and many people don’t experience life with ADHD or other processing disorders. However, I hope my story encourages you to think differently about even the frustrating parts of campus life. When you are walking to your morning class, think of something positive and try to give yourself affirmations. Even if you don’t have a running train of thought, use the time to give yourself a clear mind. Next time you sit down to study at the Young Research Library, use the walk before to motivate yourself and get focused.
Being back on campus means something different for each and every person. For some disabled students like myself, it means being back in an environment where it is easier to get focused and become motivated. I encourage you to talk to the people around you about what campus life means to them. Do it during your next walk to class; you might be surprised that the person right next to you is just as excited about getting their steps in.