A snake slithers across the dirt path on a hot summer day. The screams of a twelve year old and the rough barks of her golden retriever interrupt the ambience of a nice June afternoon.
Ben and I are walking Lucky around Bible Park and I’ve never seen a snake here before, let alone outside of a cage. Ben didn’t see it at all yet calms Lucky and I down with his reassuring tone. “It’s all okay. Let’s just keep walking.”
It is May 26, 2018. I am working a shift at Regal Bakery & Cafe where I recently picked up more hours after completing my spring semester at the University of Colorado Denver. I need to work as many hours and save up as much money as possible to support my future of teaching abroad immediately after achieving my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Dreams of moving to Chile and immersing myself in a new culture and career alleviate the stress that comes with the self awareness of my lack of professional writing experience and networking. I work through the shift contemplating possible internships. I NEED an internship. A symbol of hope walks into the cafe in the form of a regular, Jonathon. He has come today to go on the street frat walk. It has been a while since I have gone and I decide to join the walk. While talking to Jonathon, I inform him that I am on the hunt for a summer internship, to which he proposes that he might have something in mind.
I mingle with the other walkers and meet Kathryn. We start talking about literature, wisdom, and empathy which leads to me sharing with her that my brother had passed away from an overdose on June 9, 2016. I have lived and will continue to live through the isolating stigma associated with being a survivor of suicide and as a result have become a more empathetic person. Whenever I feel comfortable enough, I share this, as it is a rarity. That moment of vulnerability is an empowering form of opposition to the social stigma. It’s crazy how when I do share this piece of my life with the few I am drawn to, they often have similar stories. Kathryn let me know that her brother had also overdosed in 2016. We talk about the healing process and survivor’s guilt. As the stroll through the street continues, I let her know I will be leading my own walk, which I hope also encourages more of the special conversations and connections that I felt I have made through Walk2Connect. Kathryn still joins the walk I lead, and we both continue to share great reads and stories.
I credit Walk2Connect, and specifically Jonathon, for making two more connections I value deeply. First, there was my induction into the world of poetry, as I would have never even considered doing spoken word before being introduced to Kerrie Joy. I’m currently working on poetry to perform this weekend at my second open mic. Writing and sharing poetry has so far, been very therapeutic, especially when paired with a scenic walk. By connecting with her, I am now able to start the LGBTQIA Artists of color group that has been a longtime desire of mine. Second, through the co-op, I have also been introduced to Sarah, another member-owner who I consider a new mentor and walking buddy. In the short time I have known her, Sarah has listened to my personal struggles, shared amazing anecdotes, recommended great pieces, and advised me on my writing path. One profound similarity between the two of us is the positive memories of escapism walking has had in our lives, and the role walking has had as a means to work through issues. She has even been so kind as to take me to the beautiful lakeside trails that her treasured memories are set in. Both women have truly added to the progress I have made this summer.
Today is July 30, 2018. Tomorrow would have been Ben’s 34th birthday. After a year of tremendous growth, I realize tomorrow won’t be as hard as it might have been in the past and if there is ever a day where his absence is too painful, I know, “It’s all okay. Let’s just keep walking.”