Yeah, you, the beautiful, unique, and loved person reading this right now.
Our society tends to run at a rapid rate, and this time of year seems to get particularly bad for that. Students are preparing to hand in their final papers and write their exams. Work has gotten to be busier and more demanding as the holiday season draws near. And despite that, life itself never stops – there’s always something extra that we need to tend to, whether that be our families, an illness, some sort of passion we might be pursuing. Either way, whatever it is, it piles up, and it’s far too easy to get caught up in it all.
But you need to slow down.
I know that when things get hectic for me, I find myself tempted to just get it all over and done with, rip it all off like a band-aid and maybe once I’m finished, I’ll be happier for it. And while I’m not advocating procrastination here, sometimes the opposite isn’t all that great either. It’s the difference between a race and a sprint – you can either work hard, get through it, but still leave yourself a bit of energy to move forward and face whatever challenges life has next, or you can burn yourself out, break down getting as much done as possible in a short amount of time.
And when the break down comes, as it’s inevitably going to when I’ve been working so hard at something, I’m always left feeling angry and disappointed – not more fulfilled. I still feel like I didn’t do enough – I wasn’t working long enough. I’m so accustomed to the speed of the sprint that slowing down, even the tiniest bit, feels like a crawl. I’m charged, ambitious, ready to work, but every time I face that work it fills me with dread, and I find myself too exhausted to do it.
So I’m here to tell you to slow down.
Getting your work done is not the most important thing in life. It’s important, don’t get to wrong, but above that, more important than anything at all, is your happiness. If it’s getting in the way of your happiness (whether that be short-term or long-term happiness – the way that writing an essay makes me sad in the present, but relieved in the aftermath), then it just isn’t worth it. And I’m not saying give up on it altogether – if we all gave up on the things that didn’t give us joy, where would we be? All that I’m saying is that you need to find ways to do it that doesn’t rob you of your happiness, that doesn’t exhaust you or leave you feeling unsatisfied.
You need to slow down.
So take some time for yourself today, whatever that might mean. Maybe its time to dig out that video game you’ve been meaning to play for a while. Maybe you need to take a nice, slow walk and notice the way that the air feels on your skin, the ways in which the winter season is slowly taking place of fall. Maybe all you need to do is back away from your work and listen to some music, or talk to a loved one, or meditate for a bit. Whatever you need to do, do it, and then get back to your work when you feel prepared to. It will still be there when you’re done, and it does not do you any good to sacrifice yourself, mind, body, and soul to it.
And when it comes to getting your work done, find a pace that works for you, and don’t worry if it doesn’t match someone else’s. We’re all different, each and every one of us unique and strong in our own ways. One person might be able to power through five essays and six exams (while working full time) no problem, while someone else might need a good, long break after just one essay – and that’s totally fine. If that’s what you need, then that’s what you need, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Our society is often so fast-paced, so obsessed with results, that it’s easy to start measuring yourself against other people and wonder what you’re doing wrong. But the only thing you’re doing wrong is comparing yourself to other people – people who are not you, who do not know your experiences or the way your mind works. We’re all different, and we all need different things. You’ll get a lot more done, and be a whole lot happier, if you find a pace that suits you.