It had been one of those days. You know the type. You don’t need the specifics to understand, but I was tired, frustrated, and bored by life in general. I was annoyed at everyone, mostly at myself. I had gotten back into bed in the early afternoon, but I knew if I stayed there another moment I might explode.

Sometimes I scoff at self–care. Why would I need to spend time and money on myself? I go to Penn! I have food to eat, a place to live, people who love me. I thought self–care was necessarily a self–indulgent luxury—bubble baths at noon every day, massive shopping sprees, shirking work under the veiled excuse of mental health.

But on this particular day, I needed to take an hour for myself. So I (reluctantly) left my bed and wandered down Spruce toward the Schuylkill. On better days, I’ve run along the trail that skirts the river. Today, I’m walking. I’m listening to a New York Times podcast, which is not a good idea because I'm now annoyed at everyone plus the entire political system.

Photo: Christina Piasecki

I pass the Quad, and Houston, and Franklin Field, and then I’m just outside the Bubble (the metaphorical one, not the sports one). I cross the South Street Bridge. A few times on my runs, I’ve passed the dog park, but I’ve never stopped. I decide to give it a try this time. 

People are milling all about despite the chilly weather. There’s a big lawn and two fenced–off dog parks, one for big dogs and one for small dogs. 

Can I just walk in? No signs obviously scream that I can’t, so I assume it’s okay. 

Inside the smaller pen, there are little dogs with sweaters and booties—real city dogs. There are Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians. They yip and chase tennis balls as their owners chat and sip their coffee. Occasionally a dog will come sniff my feet, and I pet it. I’m afraid I’m breaking some unspoken rule, but of course no one cares. 

I miss my dog. A lot. When I’m having a shitty day at home, I walk my dog. This is the replacement for that, I guess. 

Photo: Christina Piasecki

Self–care is deliberate, intentional. It’s getting out of bed because you know you’ll feel better. (Sometimes, it’s staying in bed because you know you’ll feel better.) It’s unashamedly going to the dog park to pet strangers’ dogs. It’s doing those things alone because that’s what you need to do.

On my walk back, I’m still having a bad day. Things don’t disappear just like that. But now I’m listening to music instead of a news podcast, I’m thinking about dinner, I’m planning to call my mom later. So, things are looking up.