Choosing Slow

wreath
It’s the time of year when we make lists celebrating our triumphs and planning our futures. I always find these lists a bit daunting. It’s age-old ugly comparison that when I look at other’s lists of all their experiences and travels from the past year, I feel inadequate. That’s understandable and something I have to remind myself to step away from. Other’s triumphs do not detract from my own. But what I find even more insidious than common jealousy is the feeling of guilt I tend to get this time of year. Guilt towards myself. Guilt that I’m not reaching my full potential and that I’m not doing enough. I see those lists from others and wonder “what’s stopping me from doing that?!” And the truth is: I’m stopping myself. I’m choosing a slower way of life, however I don’t think I should feel guilty about that. For every thing I have accomplished this year, every trip I have taken, there has been an equal (if not greater) number of times when I have said no to an opportunity. I’ve walked away from jobs, turned down free International travel, slept in when I could have woken up and hustled…and that’s ok. In fact, that is what is best for me.
Our culture often glorifies being busy—doing your best, doing the most you physically can. If you aren’t pushing yourself to the limit, are you even trying? We imply that if you are busy, if every moment is filled, that you are doing important things. I have been hearing since my university days that I’m not busy enough. They don’t phrase it that way of course. Instead they might say, “I wish I had time to read for pleasure, but I’m too busy.” Or “I’d love to do _____ but there’s always so much else on my plate.” While it is very true that some plates are more full than others and I won’t deny that I do have more free time than others these days (although that free time is also a result of choice—see turning down jobs, etc) I have been hearing this since college--college when I was a full-time student, had a part-time job, wrote a blog near daily, was in student government, etc. Other students without jobs, clubs, blogs, etc were telling me then that they didn’t have time to read for pleasure whenever they saw a novel in my hands because they were too busy. The truth is finding time for the things that were important to me was a choice. (I’d also like to add that I feel like a number of those novels saved my sanity if not my life in college. Reading was necessity.) The implication of “I don’t have time for ____” isn’t stating the other person has more time, but rather that your own time is more wisely invested. Choosing a hobby instead of filling that time more productively is seen as a waste.
It’s been nearly a decade since those days and my life has a very different pattern now, but choice is still a constant. I’ve learned my limitations over the years and know that if I say yes to too many collaborations my body will break down from exhaustion. I know that while a free trip to a new country might sound amazing, what is being asked in exchange might not be worth what it will take from me. I still feel bad though when I find myself with too much “free time.” I wonder if I’m not meeting my potential, if I’m wasting my life by not filling every minute with something useful. But the truth is time isn’t wasted when it’s spent doing the things you love. These things might not always propel me forward in life—they won’t help me make more money, live in a better house, get a better job, etc etc—but that doesn’t make those choices, those experiences, less valid. I know that choosing slow isn’t always possible, but for me the point is: stop feeling guilty for choosing slow. It is enough to appreciate where you are, to savor the moment. You don't always have to strive for more.
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