“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~Gandhi
I have always been a person who wants to be one step ahead. I think my parents would say that I liked to push the boundaries. I wanted to experience many things, and I wanted to experience them quickly.
When my brother went to sleep-away camp, I had to go the next year despite being three years younger than him.
At age thirteen I had to ski with the older kids, racing faster and harder than I was ready for.
When I was fifteen I pushed to take a trip to Mexico with a friend despite my parents’ better judgment (and when I look back on this I realize I really was too young).
In college I continued to push the limits. This seemed okay at the time because everyone was doing it.
By the age of twenty-four I had broken away from the safety of my home state and moved myself out west and back again, living in some of the country’s most exciting places.
I wouldn’t’ stay long though—two years here, one year there.
I rushed through each amazing place, taking in as much as I could. I landed great jobs but didn’t stay long. I wanted more and I wanted change. What was I seeking?
Two years ago life shifted for me, and I was forced to slow down a bit.
I found myself in pursuit of a life-changing career. I became a teacher. I spend my days with nine year olds. Nothing makes you live in the moment like being surrounded my children. They require your complete presence and attention.
I don’t think many would call the teaching profession a stress reliever, but I find it makes me slow down and appreciate every day.
I also met a man who completely changed how I saw the world. He is older, and has experienced more of life than I have (not just in years, but in challenges and experiences I cannot imagine).
He provides me with unconditional love. He loves my best and accepts my worst. He challenges me to look at the most difficult aspects of myself. I love him and cannot imagine life without him.
At times I still find myself speeding ahead through life. I see friends getting married and having children, and I know I want that too. I struggle to not want that immediately.
Here I am at age twenty-nine, two semesters away from a master’s degree, working at my dream job, living in a wonderful city, in a wonderful and loving relationship, and yet I am constantly seeking the next thing. When will I get married? Buy a house? Have kids?
Why can’t I just live in the moment? Appreciate my life for what I have now?
This is something I have been working on over the past six months and I have found a few steps that are helpful when I have that particular “rushed” feeling.
1. Notice the small things.
I live in a small but urban city on the coast. The other night my boyfriend and I came back to my parked car after dinner to find a praying mantis sitting in the middle my windshield. We both just stared in awe and surprise—where did it come from?
I consider myself to be an open-minded skeptic when it comes to things like spirit animals, but I was not surprised to learn that praying mantis’ bring with them the idea of mindfulness and a reminder to slow down.
2. Count your blessings and keep perspective.
Chances are your life is pretty great. Yes, we all have struggles. But my “first world” problems are not life threatening, are they? Do I have an unsafe living situation? No. Do I struggle to find clean drinking water? Do I have a life-threatening illness? No and no.
I have everything I need to survive (and more)—and I bet you do too.
3. Do not compare.
Things aren’t always what they seem. That friend who just got married may not be totally happy in her career. That couple that just bought a house might be feeling strapped financially. There are ups and downs to every situation.
Trust that you are where you are supposed to be and that everything happens for a reason.
4. Find joy.
There is a lot of joy in each day; you just need to look for it. That toothless grin from a nine-year-old? Joy. Your cat pouncing on the nearest moving target? Joy. Leaves beginning to get their golden hue? Amazing. Pasta with homemade pesto? Awesome.
There are simply amazing things that happen every single day. Just open your eyes.
5. Control the controllables.
This is something my boyfriend always says, and I really like it. Change what you can and don’t stress about the rest. You cannot change traffic but you can change how you react to it. So you have an extra ten minutes in the car? See it as down time.
You cannot change others but you can change how you react to them. Your friend is late for dinner plans? Grab a beer and relax. Chances are it isn’t on purpose, and what is wrong with a little extra me-time?
6. Live in the moment.
I am a planner. I like to know when and where for pretty much everything that happens in my life. It is limiting, to say the least.
For some reason I seem to think that making plans will decrease my anxiety. But you know what makes me really anxious? When plans change. The thing is, plans change all the time! Life happens and you cannot control it.
Go with the flow. Plan only what you need to, and learn to take the day as it comes.
7. Trust the universe.
You don’t have to believe in a higher power for this one. You just have to notice all the good around you. There is proof right in front of you that things do turn out how they are supposed to. Find inspiration and hope in the happiness that surrounds you everyday.
About Alison Roberts
Alison is a elementary school teacher living in her home state of Maine.