Everyone knows that we live in a face-paced world. We hear it all the time. So much so that most of the time we wish people would stop talking about it so we could move on with our day. In modern society, it is almost a status symbol to be busy. If time is money, then the busier person with less time has created a higher value for what little time they have. I have travelled to a few of the major metropolitan areas around the U.S. and have seen that this phenomenon is mostly true across the board. You have to travel to mountains, farmlands, or other rural areas before you see things start to slow down.
In my opinion, one of the major catalysts for the unstoppable acceleration mentality was the industrial revolution. Since then, most of the world has been on a theoretical rocket ship with no plans to slow down. Most people are happy to be busy all the time. If they weren't, they would not know what to do with themselves. When I was in my last two years of college I went to school full-time and had a full-time job. In between all of that, I had gotten married and moved in with my wife for the first time. 'Busy' was my life. I barely had time to think. I was just going through the motions until I could lay down for four or five hours and start it all over again. Hands down the most stressful time in my life thus far.
Then my wife and I graduated. Suddenly there was no homework, no three-hour classes to attend, and no looming portfolio deadlines. Neither of us knew what to do with ourselves. We had made the decision to move back to our small hometown and start to settle down. Within a month or two both of us had full-time jobs but we still had more time than we knew what to do with. Instead of working from 7am to 3pm, then going to school from 4pm to 10pm, and still having homework to do, we got home between 4 and 5pm and had the evening to ourselves. We had unwillingly slowed down and were actually stressed out because of it.
At first, I always had a weird feeling that something was due and I needed to be working on it. It took a while, but those feelings began to subside. Eventually I began to pick up small hobbies and keeping more of a clean home. As I began slowing down more and more, I became more and more anxious. Nothing changed until a weekend getaway in North Carolina.
My Mother lives in Greensboro, N.C. It is not quite rural, but if you are not in downtown most of the outlying areas are much less busy than I am used to. I planned a weekend to go down and visit her by myself. I decided to take some back roads and avoid the highways. I needed some time to think and wanted to lose some of the built-up anxiety. I enjoyed the drive there, but the change did not start to happen until that Saturday. My step-dad and I woke up and hit the golf course. Generally, golfing makes people frustrated and is the opposite of relaxing. I used to be that way but have since used it as an opportunity to relieve stress. No matter where you are, golf courses offer some of the best views of the area. You could be in the middle of a city surrounded by nothing but concrete and steel. Find a golf course, and it's pure scenery. Anytime I find myself getting frustrated with the game I just take a look around and remember how beautiful it is and that there is no other place I'd rather be. There's always more golf balls so the woods can have as many as they want.
After golf, my Mom, Step-dad, and sisters and I went out for some good 'ol North Carolina BBQ. This is where it all started. First of all, whenever I'm with my Mom she makes me drive. Not sure why, but I guess she feels I'm more used to busier traffic. I don't know how that applies to anything in NC but I just do it anyway. Turns out I couldn't have picked a better time to drive for my Mom. On our way to the BBQ joint I was starting to get angrily hungry (my blood sugar drops and I get pretty irritable). It was at this point that I could not understand why everyone was going so slow! Being from Northern VA, I'm used to traffic all the time and everyone trying to go faster than everyone else. North Carolina just isn't like that. People will get where they're goin' when they get there. I'm the only one in the car that is upset about this. I start to realize how ridiculous I am being just because I'm a little hungry and we can't speed to the restaurant. My mind starts to slow down.
We eat our delicious BBQ while our waitress takes her time refilling our drinks. At first, I was upset but just kept reminding myself that things are a little slower down here. It was then that I began to see it. I noticed that people took their time to pay attention to one another. Instead of checking email and text messages on a phone while having a conversation, people were genuinely engaged in each other. This was remarkable to me. I started to see what I had been missing. I went to bed that night with a plan to start seriously slowing down my life.
I went to church with the family Sunday morning, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and was off again headed back home. I took the same back roads as before, but this time decided not to see how fast I could get home but rather took my time and enjoyed Virginia's beautiful scenery. I turned on the radio and could not get anything to come in that was not Country. I was not a big fan of country music but I decided to give it a go while I traveled through farmland. As I gazed through my windshield and windows at the trees curving around the road, the horse farms, and small towns that consisted of a block or two I listened to that country music and started to really slow down. By the time I got home I was at peace. I started a list of books I wanted to read, and decided to take my time reading them and to really enjoy them. I started cooking a lot more and used that as another way to slow down and enjoy time with my wife.
It has been about a year since I finally stopped being so busy. I still work in close proximity to fast-paced D.C. but the small town I live in and grew up in keeps me grounded. I have begun to spend more time with my family and just being outside. We might just grab a couple chairs and hang out in the front yard but it's peaceful. If we don't have plans to visit family on the weekends, we just stay home or peruse antique shops and make up funny accents while wearing old hats. The only thing left for me to do is to slowly try and move my job closer to home and continue to spend time doing things that keep me calm and relaxed.
Do you want to slow down? If not, no biggie, not everyone does. But if you do, what do you think you could do in your life to start taking more time to enjoy the things that are truly fulfilling? I would love to hear other stories similar to mine especially from people living in metropolitan areas. How have you taken the time to slow down?