I’ve had a bit of time to slow down this past month for what feels like the first time all year, and I’ve been enjoying it a bit too much. (: However, it’s had me thinking about how slowness is a virtue in a way, or at least, it can be. I’ve always been more of a “slow” person. I didn’t run around like crazy as a kid, I would sit and draw for hours, or paint, or make shoebox dioramas, or put together model toys. I’ve always liked to sleep in. I like to do active things as well, but I was never the type to be jumping out of my own skin with energy. Energy is a precious, limited resource for me, and I can be prone to laziness sometimes. Laziness is a vice for sure, I won’t make apologies for that. But in recent years, even just months, I’ve had to really make peace with my natural slowness.
I have been both scolded and praised for my slowness. I once was given the leading stage entrance for a modern choreography piece, because I was the best at miming the heavy movements of wading through water, and I remember being complimented for my performance as a slowly transforming sculpture in another piece. But in ballet class, my dégagés and petit battements were never quite up to par; the fast and sharp movements would earn me plenty of corrections and shouts from my teacher to speed up. My legs were fine with fluid movements but struggled to execute the quick punctuated steps. Nowadays, those steps in my repertoire are better than they used to be. I have learned to overcome the slowness in many areas of my life, or at least to fake it, to keep up.
This world moves so fast, that busyness, speed, never stopping, sprinting through days becoming the norm. Meditation and yoga have gained mainstream popularity, but it seems to be only because so many people are searching for ways to force themselves out of this nonstop lifestyle they’re all living. Even relaxation has turned into marathons of binge-watching television. It’s enough to make you feel inadequate if you’re not working hard and playing equally hard. It’s like everything is a competition, and I’ve just never been that competitive.
So, while I think a good, strong work ethic is one of the most valuable things out there, I’ve had to come to terms with my own place in the world in order to accept the fact that I am a hard worker in my own way, even though it often doesn’t feel like I measure up in comparison. Sometimes I look at other people who buzz around like energizer bunnies, working nonstop and exercising and socializing and just accomplishing large quantities of things in short amounts of time, and I just feel useless. Should I be working harder? Sleeping less? Exercising more? Socializing more? I mean, maybe. But what is making me feel inadequate? My own perception of my life, or my perception of my life compared to others? When I remove those filters of comparison, I feel pretty good about where I am and what I am accomplishing. I think I could do a little more here, schedule my time a little better there, but for the most part, I am doing the best I can.
And therein lies the key. I can’t do another person’s best, I can’t live another person’s life, as they cannot live mine. There is really no comparison. We can’t all be high-ranking CEOs and hustling entrepreneurs and tireless doctors and olympic athletes. The world needs those people, but it also needs the “slow” people, too. It needs the artists and the supporters and teachers, the people who just want to help others in small ways, not big ones. The people who want to reach their community and not necessarily the world. And that is more of the kind of person that I am. For me, small dreams feel big. Small accomplishments to another person may be major milestones for me.
I just feel like a very eyes-wide-open kind of person, always impressed by the simplest things. Some days I would find myself still noticing new interesting details as I drive the same repetitive 25-minute backroads commute to class, and I kind of wonder at how I find beauty in the derelict old buildings and homes lining those streets, even after experiencing the stately, historic atmosphere of a place like Paris, for example. Of course I’d love to do a lot more traveling before my life is done, and I think it would be amazing to experience actually living for a time in a country with an older, richer history and more exotic landscapes. But sometimes I wonder if I’m one of those people who is always meant to live in the simple town, the underdog city, the place where the beauty isn’t so obvious. As much as slower-living types like myself might love to imagine life in a quaint village somewhere with tall trees and cobblestone streets and wildflower fields and an ancient castle somewhere up the road, I think many of us dreamers would be overwhelmed with surroundings so idyllic. We are simply too used to appreciating the beauty in the simplest things, too practiced in creating beauty out of the painfully ordinary.
So, I write this post not at all to condemn productive people or romanticize laziness, but rather just to ponder that we need slow and fast movers alike, that we all play different roles in the world, and for good reason. It’s all relative, and it’s all balance, and I think that is the reason that social media can be stressful for many–it tips the scale and sometimes just averages everyone out, making it seem like we are always going either too fast or too slow, when really most of us are just out here giving our individual best efforts. Life isn’t about tallying a list of accomplishments, or constantly working toward the next thing without ever enjoying the present. It’s time to quit the comparing and just observe and let go and move on. Move to your own set tempo, and don’t rush to over-correct to match the person next to you or you’ll just capsize your own progress. Although, I have also written a companion post on thoughts about positive comparison…so, life musings: to be continued! (always)