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I Did Not Grow Up Taking Walks

Submitted by Editor on March 14, 2010 – 2:40 am | Print or Email »No Comment

by Mike Paulus
illustration by Beth Czech
(originally published in the Sept. 3, 2009
issue of Volume One)

My wife loves taking walks. It’s petty much her default activity of choice when she gets a few spare moments. She loves being outside with all that fresh air, and she likes feeling connected to the place we live.

It’s annoying. I walk with her, of course. Begrudgingly. See, I want to like taking walks, I really do. But I just can’t bring myself to do it.

I did not grow up taking walks. I grew up eating frozen pizzas and watching Duck Tales. Once I was old enough to preheat the oven to 450 degrees, my summer afternoons were never the same. I was too busy eating it to get outside and take a walk. That extra cheese wasn’t going to grate itself, people. And as soon as lunch was done, hey look, Duck Tales was starting. Let’s see what kind of wacky adventure those nutty talking water fowl get into today, shall we?

I did not grow up taking walks. I grew up walking across the street to play He-Man with my best friend. A sunny day kind of depressed me because dark days were so much cooler. He-Man never kicked Skeletor’s boney ass on a bright, sunshiny afternoon. He did his ass kicking beneath a sky clouded with evil and lightning bolds and dragons. My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite – these were the ones who loved the sun. Not Battle Cat. Not Optimus Prime. Not Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe or any other 80s cartoon that’s been turned into a post-year-2000 movie marketing bonanza. I never wanted to walk around in the light. What fun was that?

I did not grow up taking walks. I grew up watching old Airwolf reruns on USA network. I was a 13-year-old kid watching mediocre primetime television in the late afternoon instead of doing homework or whatever it is cool, hip, artsy kids do who grow up to be successful, interesting people who love to take walks around their neighborhoods having great conversations with their wives.

I did not grow up taking walks. I grew up eating an entire bag of microwave popcorn after school. In fact, my childhood pretty much coincided with what historians believe to be the golden age of microwaveable popping corn. Hell, I remember when Mr. Orville Redenbacher was quite proud of his brand new cheddar cheese, caramel, or sour cream ‘n onion popcorn flavors. The possibilities were truly endless. It was an amazing time to be alive and chubby. It truly was.

I did not grow up taking walks. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons until well into the afternoon. This jam-packed weekend schedule left little time for physical exercise of any kind. And since I couldn’t very well take my parents’ 300-pound wood-cased television with me, how could I possibly leave the house? Kids these days have it so easy. They can sit around doing nothing almost anywhere. I had only one or two options.

And now I’m over 30 years old and the thought of a walk causes a tiny twinge of dread because it seems like a chore. It feels like something that tears me away from the environment I love – the TV, the couch, the fridge – in short, my comfort zone.

I can tell myself, “Mike, you like walks.” I can be very logical and remind myself, “Mike, once you get outside and walking, you love it.” I can give myself a sales pitch and say, “Mike, everything good comes from taking a walk and everything you like at home will still be here when you get back. Give it a try.” But none of it helps. I still suffer from walk dread. Whatever happened between me and walks when I was a kid is still there. Always.

What happened to me? As a very young boy did I take a walk around the neighborhood and stumbled upon some kind of horrible experience, forever scarring my soul and rendering me unable to feel like taking a walk? Was I strolling around the corner when I was suddenly attacked by a bear or a bully or a killer half-man, half-robot with blazing red evil eyes? Seriously, what happened to me?

Obviously, I know the answer to my self-obsessed question. TV and convenience food happened to me – just like it happened to the rest of America. And I’ve never tried to fix it.

I’ve lived on the East Hill for over three years, and once I get up off my ass and get outside and roam a few blocks, I like it. I like the way it feels. I like talking with my wife. I like looking at the houses. I like imaging what’s inside of them. Why is all this so hard to remember?

If anyone out there has any suggestions (or can offer me free psychotherapy), shoot me an e-mail. I feel pretty guilty about the whole situation, which just adds to the dread. It’s a vicious circle, much wider than the neighborhood in which I reside, and yet I travel it everyday. Ironic, no?

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