Walking in Circles: Old habits do not easily cease to exist

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Beth Czech

I did not grow up taking walks. I grew up doing a lot of things, but my feet were seldom involved. Many people in my life love taking a good ol’ walk. My wife is one of these people. She loves them. Walks are pretty much her default activity of choice. 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. Because I want to like taking walks, I really do. But it’s hard.

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 where never the same. I was too busy eating 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 is 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 eating an entire bag of microwave popcorn after school. Because my childhood coincided with what historians believe to be the golden age of microwaveable popping corn. Listen young ones, I can remember when Mr. Orville Redenbacher first unleashed his cheddar cheese, caramel, and sour cream ’n’ onion popcorn flavors.

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 was depressing to me because dark days were (and are) so much more exciting. He-Man never kicked Skeletor’s boney ass on a bright, sunshiny afternoon. He-Man did all his ass-kicking b’neath a sky clouded with evil and lightning bolds and robot dragons. My Little Pony and the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake – 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 morphed into a modern 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 the USA Network. I was a 12-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. Because my childhood coincided with what historians believe to be the golden age of microwaveable popping corn. Listen young ones, I can remember when Mr. Orville Redenbacher first unleashed his cheddar cheese, caramel, and 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 the great out-of-doors. And since I couldn’t heave my parent’s 300-pound wood-cased television down the sidewalk, how could I possibly leave the house? Kids these days have it so easy. They can sit around watching vintage Garfield cartoons almost anywhere. I had only one or two options: TV or no TV. And now the thought of a walk causes a tiny twinge of dread in my heart because it seems like a chore. Something that rips me from my comfort zone.

What happened to me? Obviously, I know the answer to my self-obsessed question. Pop culture, fandom, convenience food, and marketing executives happened to me. Just like it happened for the rest of America. And I’ve rarely tried to fix it.

But I’ve been getting better. Lately, the desire to talk with my wife after a long day of adulting (such as talking to my kids over and over about screen time) gets me out the door. Turns out, the lady I married is a good influence, despite my myriad of hesitations.

No, I did not grow up taking walks. But I’m not done growing up.

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