“Take a deep breath. Get present in the moment and ask yourself what is important this very second.” – Gregory McKeown
Walk, Don’t Run.
The three words that drove me berserk as a child. I didn’t want to walk into the pool, I wanted a full sprint in order to propel my cannonball jump even further. And I couldn’t believe the audacity of the grey-haired teacher with mix-matched clothes that effectively halted my hallway hurry to recess, at least until I could slip around the corner out of sight.
I kept the same full-tilt pace into adulthood. But this time I wrongly misjudged it. I couldn’t see where I was jumping and the hallways seemed to go on forever. I always felt like I was running, finishing one thing and immediately on to the next. A head-down sprint, with one foot blurring in front of the other – but I never looked up to see where it was that I was actually going.
When did being busy become so glorified?
I think a little part of my soul died after college. During my studies, I had a major that required 30 hours of clinical per week, with supporting night classes, and in addition to that I also worked 30 hours a week. It was what had to be done at the time and I really never thought twice about it. I’m sure many others shared the same path. But when I was finished, I was never able to slow back down to a normal pace. I became so engrossed in work and I never turned down overtime. It was what you did, it made sense, and nobody ever told me otherwise.
What I find strange is that we tend to praise people who work 50, 60, or 70 hours a week. It’s seen as noble. There’s almost a tinge of admiration when someone remarks, “She’s a hard worker… Or… He’s a real go-getter.”
I remember thinking that if I were at a dinner or any sort of get-together, and once the formalities of where are you from and what is your occupation were covered, I would have absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation. At the time, I hadn’t traveled much, I hadn’t seen a film recently that really moved me, I hadn’t read a book lately challenged my way of thinking. I had no opinions about anything.
And furthermore, I was missing out on important time. I still regret to this day the hours of overtime I picked up. Those hours resulted in precious time lost that I could have been spent with my mother before she died. Hours I will never be able to get back. Or there was the time my brother was showing his art in an exhibit and my family, although unmaliciously, didn’t invite me. They had just assumed I was already working.
Everything felt like a constant blur and I had to make it stop. I took some time off work and spent a few months traveling abroad. I visited a slew of cities and small towns, throwing in the occasional must-see sight or day trip. But what I really did was a lot of walking.
I wasn’t in a hurry; I didn’t have anywhere, in particular, to ever be. It was oddly liberating. I couldn’t remember the last time I sat and had a cup of coffee and just enjoyed it, instead of trying to get the caffeine boost into my body as fast as I could. I read books at my leisure and watched numerous plays. I wasn’t distracted from my surroundings because I wasn’t constantly scrolling through my phone, trying to keep up with emails and notifications. I noticed people, their mannerisms. I noticed little side streets and alleyways.
When I talked to someone, I was truly present. Wherever I was, there I was.
Since then, I’m consciously trying to walk through my life instead of run. I tried to implement the lessons learned away from work and to recreate and incorporate them into my normal day-to-day life. Albeit archaic, I think walking is becoming my favorite mode of transportation. I like the slowness. I want more of it. I am no longer full-speed ahead.
I still feel like at times the world is buzzing around me, a hum of technology, news, and politics always encircling us. And maybe you feel this way too. But you can choose your speed. You can stop the glorification of being busy.
Slow your anxious feet, lift your head, and look towards the horizon. See where it is that you’re going.
But if you happen to come across a pool, you’re still fully encouraged to run right for it.