With the rise of COVID-19, something that I miss is the daily toil of transporting myself from one place to another. Yes, I miss commuting. As crazy as that seems, I miss those random, necessary, and tedious bits of our lives because they were empty. They exist only to fulfill the need of getting to somewhere else, they have no ulterior purpose or finite goal. We have gotten very accustomed to filling those moments with small things. We listen to music while walking to class, talk with a friend driving to the grocery store, let our mind drift as we run, or space out as we take a van to a field trip. For me, they were an opportunity to step back from the world and redirect attention inward.
Being an online learner, I move from my bed, to my desk, to the kitchen, and occasionally to the bathroom. Which amounts to a grand 50 feet if I go the long way. The lack of movement and general loss of needing to pass those idiosyncratic times has greatly affected me. I struggle to absent mindedly fill the random couple minutes of waiting for my class to start. I need that time to be watching a video, browsing social media, or playing on my phone.
Yes, I can go for walks outside, I can sit in my chair daydreaming at my ceiling, but those activities suddenly have a purpose, to do those things. I miss the randomness and insignificance of what I did while transitioning. It is the loss of no strings attached mentality of the time. It is the mindless wandering that occurs when you have nothing better to do while you pass the time.
This feeling of cognitive separation from the mundane task is one of my favorite parts of being outdoors. Nothing is freer than the hours spent between campsites. You know you have to go, so you just start moving and slowly your mind drifts. It is very similar to long car rides where you begin by focusing on the road, but eventually you are deeply engaged in the music, podcast, or conversation and suddenly 4 hours have slipped by. It not that you were negligent on the road, it that your mind divided the nonremarkable task of driving and the engagement in the activity.
These transitional periods are some of my most creative and entertaining times. They have to happen to continue with the schedule of my life but are open to anything without the pressure of taking up time. These sporadic moments are often used for meditation as a time to center myself and separate my attention from where I’ve been to where I’m going. Often, similar to the feeling of flow, but instead of hyper-engagement the disconnect is from boredom.
With the loss of the need for transitional time, I have felt less energetic and focused when switching between activities. I have felt more doldrum, and the endlessness of time during the day. As we go into the 7th month of the pandemic, my favorite part of my day is the walk to the mailbox. A time for limitless mindlessness.