Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Oh My Aching Legs

It’s not that I’m old. And it’s not that I’m fat. I am neither fat nor old. I’m just, well, me. And being me means being almost 30 and about 15 pounds more than I was a couple years ago. It also means having new aches and pains and a general desire to just do something different right about now.

So I did. I started walking.

See, I am not a gym guy. I don’t own a single pair of sweat pants. The very idea of being one of those overpaid, overstuffed yuppies who coughs up a monthly fee to go into a brightly-lit room full of stink and mirrors to sweat and grunt while looking at, but not talking to, other overpaid, overstuffed yuppies sweating and grunting churns my stomach on a deep, philosophical level. (Not that I have anything against those people. Some of my best friends go to gyms. (Hi baby!))

And any interest I had in athletics was burned out of me that summer I spent wheezing and muscle-spazming through AYSO soccer when I was young. Imagine the odds of being the second “Derek” on the team. To this day, I have barely met any other Dereks, and never been in the same job or group with one. So, that horrible summer, not only was I surrounded by people who yelled at me for being slow and lame and full of locked-up muscles, but they also called me by various mispronunciations of my last name. “Run, Pazowhack! Run!”

So no gym and no sports. To make matters worse (or, better, depending), I live in one of the best-connected neighborhoods in the city. I can walk 40 steps out of my building (I’ve counted) to the beautiful N-Judah line – the sleek Itialian-made chrome and steel cars that rumble my dishes every 10 minutes of every day of the week – where I can be transported to almost anywhere I need to go. My commute to work every morning included a scant two blocks on foot.

My life, then, was an endless progression of sitting. Sit in front of the computer at home, walk 40 steps, sit on N-Judah, walk 2 blocks, sit in front of the computer at work, repeat in reverse. Sleep.

Not old. Not fat. But getting there.

Then I remembered a few years ago when I spent a couple months walking around Europe. I came home and all my pants were too big. And, really, I was eating like a pig in Europe. And drinking like a fish. And I still lost all that weight. What I did was walk. I walked everywhere. And, usually, I had a giant backpack on me, too.

And then it hits me: I live in San Francisco – this beautiful, marvelous city – so perfect for the walking! Now, I’m not gonna hoof all over the city with a backpack (five days of clothes, 10-pound laptop (old school!), two cameras (film and digital)) like I did in Europe. But what if my daily commute just was a little longer?

So now I walk those 40 steps out my door in the opposite direction and keep going. I walk over the giant hill where Clayton and 17th Street meet and down the long slope to the Castro (oh, my aching shins). Then I board the underground and shuttle the length of Market to the Embarcadero. I get out and walk along the bay, under the Bay Bridge, to 2nd where I used to get off the N-Judah. I turn and walk to my workplace.

My old commute of 40 steps and two blocks has become a heart-pounding, sweat-inducing tour of the city. I tell myself that I just changed jobs to one that’s located farther away, but this is the same lie the overstuffed yuppie tells himself on the treadmill when he imagines the forests and roads going by. But I’m really walking, really out in the world, and the truth is, it feels great.

Everywhere except in my legs.

See also:

Recent Writings: Connecting Invisibles: How Associations Can Get Their Members Talking Online in Executive Update Magazine by yours truly.

Boo hoo: Software firm turns blogs into business tools. Every news story about weblogs is required to include one mention of navel lint. I was just doing my part.

Hey San Franciscans: Voices Known. Come on out on February 13! I will be performing alongside some truly amazing storytellers in a benefit for the Center for Digital Storytelling.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.