September 7, 2021

MEHLER | You Should Walk to Class

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A combination of the pandemic, no sports, and delicious takeout necessitate that you walk to class.  Your calves, stomach, and mental health will thank you.

For someone as forgetful as I am, it amazes me that I remember anything from my freshman orientation.  There’s a vague memory of my first meal at Cornell being an awful chicken parm from Nasties.  Another vague memory of zip-tying extension cords throughout my forced triple.  But what most firmly remains in my head is sitting in Schoellkopf Stadium and hearing President Pollack give us one request: “please take out your headphones.”  Honestly, I complied for almost my entire first year.  I walked to and from the Low Rises to Ives Hall for my whole first semester without listening to music, a podcast or anything else.  And, I must admit, President Pollack was right about what you miss with having headphones in.  I heard the roaring of our gorges after rainy and snowy days.  I heard the birds like an expert ornithologist, without knowing what the word meant at the time.  I opened my ears and truly listened to Cornell.

What I didn’t realize that I lost was how much I enjoyed walking over five miles a day throughout campus.  The pandemic stuffed all of us into our dorms and apartments with a lucky few of us having a discussion on Fridays in person.  Now by the start of the pandemic, I had invested in Air Pods and, I will admit, they were fabulous until they broke last week.  I ended up using those Air Pods this entire past year, whether I was studying on West Campus, walking to my discussions or sitting outside for the two weeks of glorious Fall.  What I missed was that blossoming curiosity of what Cornell had to offer my ears whilst walking around campus.  The simple joy of walking to class and listening to what sounds surround us was a gift I had taken for granted.

If you choose to ignore the headphone request, walking to class lets you see how beautiful and gorgeous our home really is.  Seeing people sled down the slope past you as you huff and puff up the Slope.  Watching the line for Okenshields stretch outside of Willard Straight Hall.  Sharing a wave and a smile with someone you think you know but you might not and oh well they’ve already passed me.

While there also is, of course, the physical-exercise benefit of walking to class, or rather the detriment in not doing so (shoutout to dodging a freshman fifteen and gaining that sophomore sixteen), the mental benefits to walking to class are enormous.  When you walk and don’t take the TCAT, you see that friend from a club you’re not so sure about but feel invigorated to give one more chance.  When you walk and go the long way to dodge the slope, you remember you need fruits and stop by Anabel’s Grocery.  When you walk to class, the mandated time away from work saves you.  We’ve all become accustomed to booking back-to-back zooms, falling victim to sitting in our chairs from 10am to 10pm.  But there’s a better way.  The return to in-person classes brings the opportunity to walk once again.  Walking to class is a blessing in disguise and although you don’t need to take Pollack’s request of “no headphones” to heart, you can bask in the sunlight of finally being dealt a good hand of bridge.

Patrick J. Mehler is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. His column The Mehl-Man Delivers runs every other Tuesday this semester.