Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Channel your inner snail and slow life down. That’s where the analogy ends; don’t slime on things that aren’t yours.
A little over two years ago I went to counselling. I did some self-reflection. I started on a path to my own happiness. One of the things I realised, was that life wasn’t a race. I turned my attention away from the PhD hunt and went backpacking for a year. During this time, I started to slow down – in terms of long- and short-term achievements. My dad would probably say it was the first time I slowed down since the moment I was born. There was no rushing from work to home to the supermarket to the gym to the pub, it was just me slowly going where I wanted to go. I was able to read (for leisure) again, and I read everywhere: at bus stops; in cafes; at airports; on beaches; in parks; in tents; and in hostel dorms.
There were a few of reasons I was able to slow down during this trip: the first, and most obvious, was that I didn’t have a job and so technically never had anywhere to be (discounting travel connections); the second, was that I didn’t have my own transport and so I was physically unable to cram too many things in to one day; the third, was that I’d accepted that I couldn’t do much in way of career progression – and I was okay with that.
This changed slightly when I was working (roughly 9-5 with some fieldwork) in India, but I maintained a very slow lifestyle that was 90% relaxing and only ever a maximum of 10% boring depending on the day. I spent a lot of my free time reading in cafes, washing my clothes by hand, or walking around the Himalayan mountain town I temporarily called home. Life was simple and slow.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to recreate this lifestyle when I moved back to the West, and I was sadly right. We’re notoriously “busy” as a society, and I’ll admit that I immediately reverted to a fast-paced lifestyle. I rushed between my job at the stables and my editing job and my writing job, to the supermarket and the bouldering gym. I was still very happy, but I did feel stressed.
Since I’ve been in Canada something feels different, and I’ve finally identified the defining feature of a slow life – it’s not about work, it’s about how you get around and how you choose to think. Without a car, I can do about one thing a day besides going to work. I can go climbing or write a blog or read or do a food shop, but I cannot do more than two of these things. This might sound restrictive to you, and that in itself is the reason we need to slow down, to get out of that mentality. Time should not be valued by the quantity of tasks we achieve in it, but the quality of how we spend it. The same goes for life, right? It’s not about racing to the top of the career ladder (in my case jumping straight from BSc to MSc to PhD to PostDoc etc.); it’s about actually enjoying the process, because you’re never going to get those days back.
Now that I’ve slowed down, I don’t feel under time constraints or rushed to squeeze every little productive task into the day. I merely feel like I’m moving through life at the pace I choose, and I choose a slow one. So far, I’ve managed to get everything done that I want to in a more realistic and enjoyable time frame. On top of that, I’ve been able to appreciate the small things in life and establish little routines I love.
Try it out. Start by slowing down one day of the week and see where that takes you.