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This I Believe: I Believe in Accidental Therapy

Hannah Sullivan - Douglas MacArthur High School
Beatrice Bonner
NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS
Hannah Sullivan - Douglas MacArthur High School

The sun sets on a muggy day. My tight jeans feel hot against my skin as I run across concrete. My friend and I come over the hill just in time to catch it, the painting of orange and pink against a once perfectly blue sky. I am filled with love and appreciation of the world around me. Over the pandemic, many people found themselves in periods of isolation and loneliness. Although I experienced these on many restless nights, the excess time alone brought me something new. Nature.

Many afternoons following virtual school, I biked around my neighborhood. Quickly, I began biking a local trail a mile from my house, which turned into biking miles of trail everyday. My time was consumed with this new obsession. Along my journeys, I frequently stopped to observe bright green trees against the crisp blue sky— or a field of newly blossoming flowers— or a deer who had stopped in my path.

In all honesty, I started this hobby in pure boredom, and I wasn’t expecting it to become too much. However, it turned into something far bigger and integral to my identity. The daily exposure to nature during such an isolating time became incredibly mindful and therapeutic, and taught me many things about myself. I discovered new music to listen to on my rides, I started painting with the inspiration of the world around me, I deeply thought about my sense of self and my values. I processed emotions and events I would’ve been unable to work through if I had continued to be in school all the time. I discovered something that made me content.

Going back to school full time for a year has been difficult. I don’t have the time anymore to go out and enjoy things alone like riding my bike. The importance that was put on self-care and mindfulness has faded. I have found small ways to incorporate it in my life: like walks on beautiful days, a small sketchbook, and playing tennis with friends. Nothing can make me forget the joyful days I spent learning to know and love myself, and my appreciation for nature will always be present in my life. No matter what is going on in my life, I will always stop to admire a perfect blue sky, a beautiful sunset, or the way the leaves fall when autumn starts.

This I Believe Illinois is NPR Illinois' annual essay program for Illinois high school seniors. An expression of where their minds are as they prepare to enter the adult world. This I Believe was started by radio journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1951 to allow anyone able to distil the guiding principles by which they lived. Special thank you to our sponsors: The Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, State Journal-Register, BLH Computers, KEB, and Marine Bank.

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