Walking Is Awkward

On the average day, I probably walk 60 minutes to and from classes. One might expect that I’d be used to the process. And don’t get me wrong—I love walking. One of the best parts about living far away from campus is the long walk. It means I get that much extra time to do absolutely nothing. I can’t do homework, read, or study while I’m walking, so I usually take the walks as slow as possible. Nonetheless, walking to class is still the most awkward thing I experience in my daily life.

No, you can't actually tell if someone looks suicidal.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case. First off, I’m never sure what facial expression I should wear. I’ve tried them all: the contemplating face, the serious face, the pout, the sad expression, the smile, but none of them feel quite right. One time, as I was walking to get coffee, my friend called me and asked if I was ok. Apparently, I “looked like I was going to kill myself” (her words). In an attempt to look as “normal” as possible, I clearly fail.

Ever wonder what a stranger is listening to?

Most of the time, I have my iPod on, eyes on the ground. Perhaps I look nervous or scared, but I’m just focused on my own thoughts. Most people are listening to their own songs, and I am constantly wondering what they are listening to. No matter what, I’m sure I’m always wrong.

Adding to my bizarre walking habits is my obsession with stepping on dried leaves. If there is a single leaf, big or small, I almost always make a point to step on it. I feel like a child who can’t resist splashing in a puddle whenever it rains. But here is something satisfying about hearing the crunch, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. And yes, I do splash in puddles if I’m wearing proper footwear.

Then there is the added problem of encountering strangers. There is an unspoken agreement that strangers passing each other on a college campus do not speak. Their eyes do not meet, and they pretend that nothing has happened. Of course, in any other setting I would say “hello” or at least smile. Sometimes, there is the unfortunate occurrence in which I stare too long at someone. A cute guy walks by, I stare until he notices (and then look away as quickly as possible). A girl is wearing her Greek letters on her pants, her shirt, and her purse; I glare at her for a little too long. Even in these split-second meetings, I can feel the awkwardness washing over me.

Possibly worse than encountering a stranger is encountering an acquaintance. How near does he have to be before I say hello? I’m never sure, so I pretend not to see him until we’re near enough for me to look up and say, “Hi!” It is often clear that we have both seen each other, yet neither of us wants to shout. Instead, we look the opposite direction until one of us decides on an appropriate distance to interact.

I realize I cannot possibly be the only person who feels this way. Does anyone else feel extremely awkward as they walk to class, work, or wherever? I’m always wondering what other people think of me as I walk. I know I’m thinking about them as we pass on the street.

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5 thoughts on “Walking Is Awkward

  1. A thousand times yes. For me, the worst thing is encountering someone you know, smiling at them from afar, and then realizing 5 minutes later that you’re still smiling at nothing like an idiot and everyone is looking at you. Walking where there are people is the worst.

  2. This reminds me of something I heard a big brother/caregiver type (let’s call him Tie-Dye) telling his buddy, a man who appeared to have some sort of an autism spectrum disorder (we’ll call him Glasses) on the bus. Glasses said his eyes hurt, and he was squinting, but when tie-dye reminded him that his optometrist had suggested he wear dark glasses inside to combat the problem, Glasses said he’d feel self-conscious about it, people would look at him funny. So Tie-Dye passed on some sage advice I’d heard before, but not quite this way: He suggested Glasses go out into a public place doing something really weird. Flapping his arms like a bird, or hopping on one foot, or whatever. Wearing his underwear over his pants. Who knows. And then, he said, see how many people notice. “You’ll be surprised,” he said, “Most people won’t even take a second look; they’re too wrapped up in their own heads.” Then he made an example of me. I just happened to be wearing sunglasses on an overcast day inside that very bus, and he pointed me out and asked if Glasses had even noticed that I was wearing sunglasses, or if anyone else had, if I looked weird. He hadn’t noticed.

    It’s all just to say that it’s a lot of fun to think about what other people are thinking on the street, but there’s no need to let it make you self-conscious. Odds are they’re thinking about something, but my money’s always on people having something else on their minds. That’s an idea I try and keep in the back of my head all the time hoping to be self-aware without being self-conscious as I walk or ride or roll through the world.

  3. I know the feeling all too well! I mainly just feel awkward when people say they saw me walking and that I ignored them when in reality, I merely didn’t see them! Even so, I am made out to be stuck up simply because it looked like I was blowing this person off. Another awkward part of walking is encountering uneven pavement and tripping. Even when you catch yourself, you still feel funny about the clumsy moment.

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