The sun warming my face as I walked down the sidewalk that afternoon had changed. Having passed into the heart of September, the air was laden with the first foreshadows of fall. Soon the air would be accented with the smell of smoke rising from burning piles, and sharp breezes and frosty mornings would usher in the season of floppy sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes. Of course, with these whispers of the season to come were also the tappings of academic stress on the back door of my mind–of the beginnings of hard, exhausting work blowing in with the steadfast clouds.
Per the norm, I had a few obligations pinned up in my mental bulletin board that day, but, as I sat alone in a bright corner of my favorite coffee shop, I resolved to postpone them further. Taking a long draw from my iced mocha, I turned on a song I’ve recently developed a preoccupation for (because it fits well with characters from a novel I’m working on), and pulled out my sketchbook. Upon opening it and readying my pencil over an empty, amazing-smelling page, I furtively glanced around. The coffee shop wasn’t particularly crowded, and, unfortunately, I had inadvertently positioned myself at an inconvenient angle for what I intended to do. I turned my attention to the window close to my right, hoping I wouldn’t have to wait too long before someone came into view.
People-watching: the main goal of which is to place myself in a social setting and attempt to observe and draw people without them catching me creepily staring at them. I had first heard about this pursuit from a sociology assignment my friend had freshman year, and later on, when I learned it also afforded the opportunity to practice life drawing, I naturally decided to try it for myself. As it turns out, it immediately entered my list of self-care.
I found it extremely therapeutic to go out and alight somewhere to just sit and be for a while. No deadlines, no stress, no pressure. Nothing to prove to anyone, nothing to compare myself with. Only observation and reflection as my hand attempts to capture at least some semblance of the world around me.
Through this activity, I find time to breathe, and I am able to sit back and notice people as the fascinating and complex beings God created. I hadn’t realized before how extremely dynamic people are, even while simply walking or standing still. It invariably fosters my appreciation for life in general, and, with an amused smile, I compliment God on his awesomeness.
I have decided to engage in people-watching on a regular basis—especially when I’m stressed out or frustrated with life. Its combination of studiousness and lack of direction allows my mind to quiet down, keeping my voracious need for progress occupied like a small child with a coloring book as I take some time to simply exist.
Because we can strive and dream all we want, but it’s good to step back once and a while and appreciate the beautiful fact that we are alive.