This column appeared in The Herald-Sun in 2013:
The economy really must be improving, because my weekend walks at The Streets at Southpoint mall have lost their intensity.
I can’t speed along at a decent pace, what with having to slow down or stop for other people or, when possible, to swerve around them.
Don’t they know I’m trying to walk here?
Don’t they get that I’ve got a goal?
Don’t they realize I have to get my steps?
The machine won’t leave me alone until I get my steps.
It’s a tiny device, called a Fitbit, made of black plastic and circuitry. This gizmo urges me, for the sake of physical fitness, to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.
The Streets at Southpoint made a great air-conditioned go-to spot during the summer for my walks during lunch and on weekends.
But now crowds of people actually seem to be shopping more often. I can’t build up a good head of steam in these conditions.
Luckily, though, it’s fall again. I can take long walks closer to home, looping around the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, down Ninth Street past Dain’s and The Regulator, then over to the course around the wall on Duke’s East Campus.
The constant, this electronic Jiminy Cricket, doesn’t care where I walk, as long as I hit my goals.
I thrive on goals. It’s a little sad, really. My wife, Catherine, had been urging me for a couple of years to get out and walk regularly. Sure, I tried, but I always found reasons not to make the effort.
Now, with the Fitbit, if I’m sitting at 9,500 steps at 11:30 p.m., you’re going to see me trotting up and down the stairs in our house until I hit my mark.
Apparently, I just need a daily goal. It can’t be about the journey. That’s why I say it’s sad. I never wanted to believe that I was someone driven by reaching the destination. But it’s true. I have to own that.
When I read a mystery novel, I’m more interested in finding out whodunit than reveling in the language of the story.
When I watch a movie, I want to reach the big finale.
When I play a video game, especially one with levels for characters, I want to max out.
So, yes, when I walk and walk and walk and walk on any given day, it’s not because I want to savor the outdoors. It’s because I want to hit a rather arbitrary daily goal set for me by a machine.
I hope this is only a phase. I should spend more time enjoying the experience instead of worrying about hitting specific benchmarks. Maybe it’ll pass once I shed the 20-plus pounds I want to lose.
If I can hit the walking goal enough times, I’ll reach the weight goal and then I can make a new goal to forget about goals for a while.