“Hurry, sweetie, we’re going to be late,” I say, the words exiting my mouth at warp speed as I hook a water bottle on my pinkie. I’m already juggling two preschooler’s backpacks, two snack bowls, my phone and my keys. We have to leave NOW in order to make it to school on time, and by “on time” I mean by the 15th and final minute of the window our school gives us to make it to the classroom.
Undoubtedly feeling rushed, as evidenced by his high-pitched squealing and shaking hands, The Professor pulls up his right sock and stumbles backwards, ramming the back of his head into the door frame and wailing. He collapses on the floor in a heap while an uncontrollable feeling of guilt and shame fills my cheeks with heat. I’ve done it. I’ve pushed him and prodded him and hurried him out the door, and now, in addition to being late, he’s injured, and upset, and we are all stressed. For a moment, I’m heartbroken for my little 5-year-old, trying so hard to follow my rushed directions, and I’m full of remorse and regret that I can’t get this simple task done without tears and anguish. I want to hold him. I want to make things better.
But I also want to get to school on time. We’ve got stuff to do.
After a few precious seconds spent kissing the owie and wiping away tears, and a few more precious minutes of climbing into car seats, adjusting straps and barreling down the driveway while franticly passing snacks around the car and trying to find the Choo Choo Soul station on Pandora, we are off and running.
It’s just another day of rushing around. It’s just another day of hurrying. It’s just another typical day in our lives, no doubt similar to everyone else’s, if not in the specific destinations and tasks than in the motion.
We are always rushing. We are always hurrying. We are always trying to just get through whatever we’re currently engaged in, so we can get to the next thing that we have to rush through.
What are we in such a hurry for? Why are we always rushing around? Why does it feel like there is never enough time to complete our tasks?
I’ve felt a sense of urgency to my days ever since I can remember making memories. In fact, my Kindergarten teacher even wrote the following on my report card: “Carrie completes work quickly. We are working on neatness and working carefully.” It only increased as I got older. My grade school and high school days were filled with jam-packed schedules (dance, piano lessons, soccer, musicals, forensics, Honors Society, leadership club, work at my dance studio or TCBY, not to mention homework). It accelerated in college, and went even faster when I graduated and got a job.
I entered the job force at a time when the economy was not so great, and when people were being laid off left and right. I was one of the lucky ones that managed to hold on to my job during these lay-offs, which meant that I was now responsible for my own tasks and the tasks of those that had been let go, so not only had my workload had increased but my stress load had increased due to the impending threat of getting laid off. There was never enough time to finish my work. The idea of joking with friends at the water cooler was a complete joke just in itself. I didn’t have time for that!
Hurry, hurry, hurry! We have to get to the next thing!
I can distinctly remember the first time I thought maybe there was a better way. I left the workforce to become a stay-at-home mom after having The Professor, and after the first couple bleary-eyed months of sleepless nights and off-kilter schedules, I remember stopping by my parents’ house to show them the baby and visit for a bit. After about an hour my mom asked me what I had going on that day. She and my dad were very used to my running around like a crazy person by this point, and our visits were always rushed and I was always in a hurry to get somewhere else. That day, though, I sat down at the kitchen table, took off my jacket, and breathed. I didn’t have anywhere to be that day! The wonder of it was nearly breathtaking. I could sit and drink a cup of coffee if I wanted to! I didn’t have to rush to be anywhere or do a darn thing. It was absolutely, unequivocally awe-inspiring. For the first time in perhaps decades, I didn’t feel the need to run off anywhere.
But now here we are again. That was five years ago, and the pace of our lives since then has accelerated, and it’s trickling down to the little humans in our lives. The Professor is the one getting report cards now, and his teacher has this to say: “He likes to stay busy and gets his work completed quickly. We continue to work on neatness and attention to detail.”
Like mother, like son.
The Professor didn’t learn this on his own. He’s gotten it from me, and his teachers, and the pace of life that Americans deem acceptable. Stay busy. Get the work done quickly. Move on to the next thing.
Our society rewards work-horses, and I’ve always prided myself on being a “do-er.” Past employers have told me that if they ever needed something done, they’d ask me, regardless of how much else I was working on. That felt great. I was proud of myself! I liked being the go-to girl! Yet, I was also stressed, and exhausted, and always on-edge. Hurrying takes its toll.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed,” says Mahatma Gandhi. Yes. Yes! There is! There has to be.
I don’t want to be stressed, exhausted or on-edge … ever … let alone every second of the day. I no longer think working quickly is the key to life. I don’t think the person who gets the most accomplished is the most worthy person in the room. Yet, it’s seemingly engrained in me. It’s such a way of life for me, and my friends, and for every American I’ve met so far, that it’s just a given. We wear our busy-ness like a badge of honor, but where is the honor in the miserable stress that results?
I don’t want to try to get more done. I want to get more out of what I’m doing.
I have made a personal decision that may be a bit unpopular. I’m guarding my time. Starting this very moment, I’m making a conscious effort to stop rushing around. I can get more done if I hurry, but I’m done hurrying. I owe it to my children, to my husband, to myself, and to the world at large to be more peaceful, more loving and more compassionate, and I can’t do that if I’m in a rush all the time.
I’ll never be able to single-handedly stop the human race, but I can choose to no longer compete in it. I can choose, right now, to stop trying to be the first one done. I can choose to be the one that occasionally sits on the sidelines and smells the dandelions.
There is no prize at the end of our lives for the person who gets the most done, or does things the quickest. At the end of my days, I want to be known for the lives I touched and the person I was, not for the things I checked off a to-do list.
The human race is real, and its intensity may just be killing our spirits. There has to be a better way.
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
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