Up Close and Personal: My Take on Simple and Slow Living
These past few months, I have been focusing more on slow living instead of constantly chasing…prestige? Money? To be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was that I was chasing. Perhaps I was just afraid to be alone with my thoughts therefore I filled it with as many projects and work as possible.
Focusing on the things that matter in life
After copious amounts of therapy, taking time to reflect, journaling, and meditating, I have realized that there are very few things in life that truly, really matter. I think most of the time, we get too close to the picture that everything just seems to heightened and that we are playing this game called life at such a high stake. Things such as owning a house at a certain age, getting married, having kids, having a successful career…that does all feel very important to have, at one point in my life.
And no, I am not saying all the above weren’t important, because they are. But again, everything in moderation. I think we as a society, especially the western society have this mindset that we constantly need to be moving and growing at either a constant speed or faster. Rationally, we all know that is simply unattainable. I don’t know about your mileage, perhaps I am simply a bigger pussy than some, but personally, I wasn’t able to hack it.
I lived that life, where I was constantly chasing for more. More work, more prestige, more praises from professors and bosses. Now looking back, while I didn’t regret it, I also no longer see the point of it all. If you were to see the past me from the outside, many would have been envious. I had so much going on for me and I was going through life at such a speed that now looking back, I didn’t even remember what happened for the giant chunk of my time in that chapter of my life. All I remembered were the panic attacks and suicidal ideations.
I was doing everything that society said one should do in order to look successful in life, and I sure as hell looked successful. I was so busy that my calendar run my life, if it wasn’t in my calendar it simply didn’t exist–as I am sure this is also the case with a lot of people out there right now. But at one point, after constantly having panic attacks every 2-3 weeks, I decided that I needed to change. Had I continued down the same path that I did, I would have quite literally worked myself to death and no one would realize until it was too late. And what is the point of living life that way?
Boundaries and the word “No”
I understand that I am writing this and speaking about this from a very privileged perspective. Simply having the choice to slow down and take a step back to evaluate my life and make the changes necessary to better my mental health and wellbeing is a privilege not everyone could afford and please know that I am grateful for this every day.
About 6 months-ish ago, I decided to cut everything down to the bare minimum. I no longer said yes to every opportunity that came knocking, I became more aware of the things that I agreed to and trained myself to draw boundaries, and said no when it comes to things that I wasn’t necessarily passionate or interested about. At first, it was daunting. I have lived my entire life being a yes woman, and now all of a sudden I have to learn how to set boundaries and be firm if someone tries to overstep–and believe me, people do that more often than you’d think. At least the people whom I have to work with.
As with many things, the first step is usually the hardest. But I pushed on. I didn’t let myself falter or give up into fear of saying no. I bludgeoned forward like a pigeon on fire and set my boundaries with friends, families, coworkers. While I am getting better at it now, there are still times when I question myself, if being this firm is the right thing to do. Sometimes I want to give in and give more of my time to work and clients, but this one quote kept me in line.
“You give them an inch, they’d take a mile.”
It really put things into perspective. People simply don’t care that much about others, especially in a professional setting. Most people want to get that promotion or be that worker bee that is praised for doing a good job, and if that means crushing a coworker or two while they’re at it, then so be it. And I refuse to put my neck out to save someone’s ass when I don’t know if they will ever do the same for me.
As soon as I start to breathe and take in my surroundings more, I also learned to cultivate kindness towards myself and others. This is something I barely ever experienced before. I think taking the time to date myself, spend time with me in various different places helped me be more comfortable being in my own head. This comes with time, and on my end–a lot of therapy and self-reflection.
I wasn’t as scared about being alone with myself as I was before. I no longer find the need to constantly be stimulated all the damn time. I could pick up a book and be lost in it for hours at a time, or I could just take a stroll for hours while listening to the sound of birds chirping. I no longer feel the need to fill my every waking hour with constant noise.
Another thing I have realized is that I am now more curious about life, and much more patient. I don’t know how much of this is just an age factor and how of it is choosing to slow down factor, but I have definitely realized this change in myself. I no longer live life to please others, to force myself to fit into some mold that is predetermined by culture, gender, or society. I am simply able to live life as I like and follow my curiosities, be it starting at ants while they march to bring food home for 20 minutes or simply sitting on the side of the streets and watching people go about their day. I used to be so afraid of doing things that is out of the norm, worry that people will judge me for being odd or weird. But realize this,
“Everyone is too busy worrying about themselves and being stuck in their own head to worry about you.”
At the end of the day, the majority of people don’t care. And for me, that is very freeing to know.
Life is an interesting thing. Especially now when I am writing this 2 years into the pandemic and with Ukrainians fighting for their freedom and democracy, when I think about it–like really think about–there are really not a lot of things in life that truly matters. I won’t write it down here what are the things that truly matter as I believe it is different for everyone. But with life being as short as it is, I have learned that I don’t want to live in “what if”s, I want to lie on my deathbed with a smile because I followed my curiosities, be it good or bad.
Ps. Thank you to those of you who emailed me and encouraged me to continue writing. Please know that I hear you and I read all your messages. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words, I appreciate and love you.
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