Go lose yourself and leaf it all behind

These days, finding solitude seems nearly impossible. Our attention is demanded at all waking hours by text messages, phone calls, emails, push notifications, friends, family, professors, work, and even our pets! Everyone wants something from us. Where can you go to be truly alone and get away from it all? The easy answer would be a tropical island, mountain range, hell, maybe a farm (I’m a Midwestern girl, you know), but let’s be realistic. For one person, that place may be a yoga studio. For another, it might be a place of worship. For me, it’s the Pat Dolan Trail.

blue circle sign with "Pat Dolan Trail NYC Parks" text
The Pat Dolan Trail is one of Forest Hills’ best kept secrets

Once upon a time, about eight months ago, my ex broke up with me (don’t worry, there’s a happy ending). When I asked him for the reasons why, one of them was “we never go on fun dates, like hiking… or something.” Perhaps my ESP wasn’t sharp enough for him, but we did have two dates in Central Park; I mean, we’re in New York City, not North Dakota! Despite not being super upset afterwards, I still needed time and space to clear my head. I wanted a break from the chorus of “it’s not you, it’s him,” “there’s plenty of fish in the sea,” and “you’ll get over it.” I know close friends and family were being loving, supportive souls, but the emotional and mental medicine I needed could only be administered by the presence of water (you’ll understand from reading my recent post). And once I found the trail’s dotted line hugging the blue blob of Willow Lake on Google Maps—a half mile from my front door—I started living happily ever after. 

[DISCLAIMER: That might be the lamest fairytale you’ve ever read, but God is probably saving Prince Charming for a later chapter, so… stay tuned.]

WIllow Lake
How glassy smooth is Willow Lake?!

On the Pat Dolan Trail, I forgot I was in New York City. My lungs were soaked with the sweet-smelling air, while my shoes were coated in an earthy blend of dead leaves and wet dirt. I, a stranger, felt welcomed by the family of birds, butterflies and insects around me. I wondered who blew the teasing bubbles that broke at the water’s surface. Seeing how this preserve’s ecosystem fit together made me wonder where I fit in the ecosystem of this massive city and this whole world.

Fall foliage in Forest Hills, New York on Willow Lake Preserve Trail
Trees are by far the prettiest in the fall

Yesterday I watched the New York City Marathon on TV, which was the kick in the arse I needed to start preparing for the Turkey Trot 5k on Thanksgiving. After a quick warm up, I jogged to the trail’s entrance, put on my favorite playlist of thought-provoking songs (which you can conveniently find at the end of this post) and let nature do its thing as I sauntered down the tree-lined path.

At the other end of the trail, there’s a covered bridge that leads to a nice playground. By the time I reached it, endorphins were coursing through my veins like crazy, so I cranked out a few park bench exercises to wake up my quads and glutes. On the way back, I surprised myself with jogging the entire trail and 90% of the way to my apartment! The heart-pounding cardio I did, the cleansing breaths I took, the peace of mind I found, and the inspiration I collected to write this blog post all started with a step on the Pat Dolan Trail. It was like I had hit the refresh button on my life, and I loved the way it felt. It was the recommitment to myself I needed.

giphy giphy1

I’m a big advocate for spending time alone with yourself—whether you’re single or taken or whatever. We spend hours getting to know others, yet we barely take time to get to know ourselves. Find that special space where you can seek solitude. Set aside an hour once a week, or 20 minutes twice a week, any amount you can squeeze in. Ask yourself some of these questions. Mental exercises may not be as popular as physical ones, but I’m here to remind you they’re just as important. Challenge yourself to try it this week!

And by the way, I posted my first trek on the trail to my IG story so the ex could see it. Since he (sort of) told me to take a hike, I did. And I’m pretty grateful for that!

Pat Dolan Trail
I love that the trail has big stepping stones to avoid a muddy mess

~Remember to follow Fit by the Fork on Instagram~

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