About once a week I try something different and break from my routine. Maybe I decide to skip a class (don’t worry, I watch the recorded lecture online!), I walk the longer route to school, or I go to a cafe that is a little off the beaten path. Being in college is so fun, so fleeting, but it doesn’t help that as our schedules fill up, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Yet, I think the most precious moments that give personality to Berkeley are all the moments that happened by chance when I took the path less traveled.
I love to go on runs through the Berkeley hills, and on my main route, I usually go up to the same fork in the road, then turn right or turn around. I was thinking last week why I had done this run more times than I can count, but never ventured beyond that turn To be fair, it did appear that it might dead end, so maybe I figured it wasn’t worth it. So last week I turned left. The hilly dirt path became a winding road, with no one around other than the occasional local resident. I curved around Claremont Canyon, enjoying flat terrain as reward for the hilliness of the previous mile. I was running not ten minutes when I popped out at the top of the Clark Kerr steps, and all of a sudden when I thought I had no idea where I was, I knew exactly where I was and where I was headed. It was less than a mile between two of my favorite trails but I’d never bothered to try it. For two years I was mere steps away from making what had been two of my favorite out-and-back runs into one cohesive loop.
My freshman year, the same open-mindedness introduced me to the wonders of North Berkeley, specifically the footpaths and hidden stairs that will bring you all the way from the bottom of the hill up to Tilden Park. I often run with my phone for safety reasons and music, but on this day, I used it to navigate to Tilden with a series of thirty five directions until I ended up in a foggy forest. It was absolutely magical. And right then, in this foreign place 4 miles from home, my phone died. I knew the general direction and just started trying to get back. On those 4 miles, I encountered Lake Anza for the first time, I found a playground with an awesome view, and eventually ended up at Codornices Park where I grabbed a piece of cardboard and slid down the concrete slide. The best part of getting “lost” was the sense of wonder of finding something authentically, and it wasn’t because of a Yelp review, or Google Maps, but because I was just taking life with a little of spontaneity.
I don’t generally have free time during the school day, with the exception of 30 minutes on Wednesdays where I try to break routine. A few weeks ago, I decided to spend these minutes getting intentionally lost in the maze of Dwinelle Hall. A few minutes in, I discovered Common Grounds Cafe buried in the middle of the “fourth” floor, an elusive place I had only heard of but never actually found. I ordered my first ever Pumpkin Spice Latte there to cherish the moment (and admittedly, it was delicious).
I have loved learning more about my campus and the city of Berkeley in these chance occurrences. I encourage you to try something a little different, give yourself an extra 15 minutes a day to deviate from your routine and see where you end up!