This morning, brandishing a piping paper cup of coffee and squeezed into a scratchy black sweater, I scuttled up to the top of a small grassy hill beside the library and closed my eyes. For days my constant struggle had been to find free time, that unattainable thing which every 21st century kid confesses they lost long ago. But today, my only thoughts were of the light brown lines being drawn down my fingers, the angry wind whipping across the trees above me, and the mellow chirping and churning of the cars and busses along the street.
Something about that half-minute trance felt more impactful than the past two months of never-ending tension and thought. It was because I finally slowed down — acknowledging and ruminating on all that was buzzing about me — something few realize is critical to surviving in this harsh reality. It was in those few ticks that I felt, not simply perceived and pushed. It was only then that I was able to zoom out, and focus the ability I had been harnessing for two months— the ability to follow my own advice (something no person I’ve ever met has also attested to doing so strictly).
Yesterday, I wrote about one of the most important things I’ve learned since the semester began. Grappling with the brevity of the piece, the magnitude of the lesson, and the barren attention it was bound to receive, I realized that its proposed influence should be unaffected by its inevitable result. All that can be done will always be told by a narrator, and there is no narrator except for the one found in yourself.
And it was after these realizations, after giving yesterday the time to mingle with today, during that half-minute moment, that something clicked. The great existential secret I had been worried over my entire life— what will I do? — answered itself. I will live. I will write. But most of all, I will slow down. It’s from stress, from long life, from hastiness, that “regret” is borne, grown, allowed to fester. It’s from clean air, time without distraction, purposefully neglecting overwhelming responsibilities, that we learn. And the day we stop learning is the day that we die; the day we refuse to continue the millennia on millennia of human growth we are somehow appended to is the day that we stop mattering.
Although I had hoped to have a thesis here, a confounding point that uniquely elevates this essay, I know I haven’t slowed down enough to discover it. And I know it will be impossibly difficult to slow down once again to write it down, if I so happen to find it. So, for now, I force myself to look up more often than I look down, and I refuse to fall asleep when I have yet to wake up.
When I was seventeen,
my mother said to me
“Don’t stop imagining. The day that you do is the day that you die.”
Now I pull a one ton carriage,
instead of the horses grazing the lawn.
And I was having fun.
We were all having fun.