There was a year in my teens when I spent much of my time looking down. Ah, (deep sigh) high school. I had moved back to Burlington after living for most of my childhood in Bermuda and England. I had a British accent and knew a sum total of two people in my school (from my kindergarten days) on the first day of Grade 9.
I remember looking down at the floor as I walked past the Grade 10’s and 11’s down the seemingly endless hallway to my locker. Looking down at my desk after I’d spoken out in my ‘funny’ accent when a teacher called on me to answer a question. Looking down at my tray as I made my way through the maze of tables at the cafeteria. Looking down at the ground as I walked past the ‘cool kids’ on the way to the bus stop.
Although I made fast friends with a group of girls who I am proud to still be very close to (so many years and marriages and babies later) and I loved my school but – like most teens – I was in that stage of feeling awkward, self-conscious and insecure. I was involved in sports and theatre and had no issue playing field hockey at Ivor Wynne Stadium or performing in the school plays, but when it came to simple tasks like walking down the hallway, it seemed easier and felt safer to look down and pretend I – and anyone else for that matter – wasn’t really there.
At some point during Grade 10, I simply decided to look up. It sounds like such a silly thing, but it was a huge deal for me. In my diary (yes, I was and still am a journal keeper), I made a decision to physically change the way I walked and see what it felt like to lift my head. To look up, to engage, whether it was with kids older than me, strangers, guys I had secret crushes on, girls I admired and looked up to, possible friends. To look up, despite my feelings of shyness and insecurity.
It was transformational. Sure, it was scary and took a while to get used to. But I think it did a lot for my confidence and my interactions with others. And let’s face it, the world of looking down is pretty limited to the ground, your feet, and the feet of others. Looking up opened up my world on so many levels. I still dreaded walking down the hallways but it got easier.
Why am I remembering this now? Recently, I’ve noticed so many people (myself included) walking down the street with their heads bent over their blackberries or their iPhones. Because we are able to do everything – grocery lists, meal-planning, text our pals, tweet, check email, surf our favourite sites, etc on our phones – it’s so tempting to be engaged with these little devices. All. The. Time. I know I’ve been guilty of getting sucked into Twitter while my husband is driving us all somewhere, and it’s taken him three tries to get my attention. Or I’ve been checking email quickly and been sidetracked by a message when I should be down on the floor playing with my kids. And that is not the person I want to be. I don’t want to look up one day from my iPhone or email to realize that my family has stopped trying to get my attention.
I rarely feel shy or awkward in my body anymore. I am confident and happy with who I am, so this habit of looking down is for entirely different reasons. But it seems my life has come full circle from 20 years ago, and I’m making the choice once again to look up. Because I don’t want to miss anything.
What are you missing out on by looking down?