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Moving Slowly In a Fast Paced World

Don’t let anyone try to pull you down or speed you up.

Photo by Spencer Duncan on Reshot

When I was in kindergarten, one day our teacher introduced us to molasses. We all sat down in a circle, with Mrs. Masters in the middle, showing us how it was a very slow-moving syrup. I heard a boy just a few classmates down whisper to another, "Shannon is slow like molasses."

They both giggled at the thought.

It’s interesting what we remember from our childhoods. That statement has stuck with me my whole life, and not because it made me feel bad about myself. It just reminds me that I’ve always felt different from everyone else around me.

That wasn't the last time someone called me slow. Friends and roommates have all joked that I "move in slow motion."

Do I?

If enough people say it, perhaps it may be true. Okay, fine. No one has to say it anymore because I know it’s true.

When I was in college, I felt the weight of my naturally slow pace. As classmates whizzed through their homework, I sat there thinking about each assignment far too long. It was obvious to me that I couldn’t juggle schoolwork as easily as my peers, even though standardized test scores would tell you I’m a certain type of smart.

My entire life, people have told me that I’m smart or intelligent. In third grade my teacher took me aside to explain what it meant when I scored in the 99th percentile on the SRAs. My high school guidance counselor had a similar talk with me about my English and reading scores on the ACT--35 and 36. But such compliments of intelligence are colored with disappointment.

How could someone so smart move so slow? How could an intelligent woman get herself knocked up at 32? How could a smart girl flunk out of college or struggle so much with her weight?

Parents and educators alike often struggle to grasp how anyone "bright" could run into difficulty. That's because our world typically correlates intelligence with success and swiftness with smarts.

I'm not quick paced, but I am intelligent. I move slowly, yet I'm far from meticulous. So I tend to defy other people's expectations of me. Many atypical people like myself throw neurotypical folks off-balance all the time.

For the most part, I get stuck inside my own head. I daydream. I’m one of those people who likes to sit through the end credits of a movie to digest what I just watched. I like to think and ponder. I need time to process my feelings in nearly every relationship. Don’t ask me a question and expect a quick response--I need time to think and understand what I feel.

Basically, I need to go at my own pace whether I like it or not. Whether you like it or not.

It's the same thing when I write. Other writers can crank out a great post in an hour. Nope. Not me. Not usually. Even my rambles and rants take much more time than you'd think.

Because I get so stuck inside my head.

Sometimes it gives me pause and I wonder if maybe I shouldn't even be writing because it doesn't always come too easily for me. But there are reasons for that. Trauma messed with my head, and at various points, it's made it more difficult for me to create art or write.

But I keep trying, and I go slow. Try to tread through all the baggage.

When I was young and still in school, there wasn't a lot of talk about things like autism, or even allowing kids to slow down and go at their own pace. I went to public schools with programs for the gifted and talented. And I was often pulled out of class for more fast-paced groups.

A fast-paced education was fine until I was about twelve. That’s when juggling became more difficult. I spent seven years in speech therapy and and four in OT, but there were no therapeutic classes for kids with increasingly awkward social skills or hidden dysfunctional families.

By the time I was 19, I felt like there was never really enough time to get things done. Technology made everything easier, but between the new technology and social media I felt immense pressure to accomplish more than ever before.

These days, we do--thankfully--keep more of a dialogue going about atypical brains and what types of education benefit people at various speeds. But for a lot of us atypical thirty-somethings and older, we’re still dealing with the effects of moving slowly in an increasingly fast paced world. Especially since our world got so quick so fast.

Rather than seeing my slowness as a burden, I'm trying to see it as more of a strength. This is who I am as a 36-year-old woman, as a mother, and as a writer. Some of the very best things about me come from those things that make me different--and maybe even weak--because I'm able to draw from those experiences when I write.

Over the past few months, I’ve connected with more people than in the past three years. And that’s all because I write imperfect stories about my hopelessly flawed life. Because I go slow in a world that tells me to move fast.

Maybe some of you are a little bit like me. Perhaps you also move slowly and feel the need to catch your breath. Maybe you’ve never caught it. This world moves so fast it might try to grab your wrists and pull you along for a race you never wanted to run.

Don't let it bring you down.

Go at your own pace and remember there's no shame in moving slowly in a fast paced world.