I had a healthy double-pace going from the start, in an attempt to avoid the fate that eventually happened anyway: seeing the bus pass my stop just before I got there. Rather than be thankful for this moment of forced rest, I quickly turned my head around and stared down the street to see how far away the next bus was.
I re-live this experience, or something similar, multiple times a week; running to catch a bus, rushing to catch a train, repeatedly checking for the next one to come while I impatiently wait. My mind is constantly focused on what’s next.
Such is the life of a commuter. I spend nearly two hours a day in transit on the CTA. Every moment is about movement, even when I finally get on the train, that takes me within two blocks of work, I can rarely divorce my thoughts from the hurriedness that awaits me at the end of the line. And while I sit in class two nights a week, I regularly reflect on the long journey home.
What’s worse is that outside of the actual commute, I have also found myself picking up habits of a life on the move in my interactions with people.
A few weeks ago, for instance, I got on campus and rushed into ‘the commons’ to buy dinner. I quickly threw a few pieces of pizza onto a plate, filled a cup with coffee, and jumped in line at the register. As my total was being calculated, I was entirely focused on getting out my wallet and grabbing a few napkins. All the while I was shooting glances into the dining area to keep an eye on my stuff. Without even digesting what my total was, I slid my card through the reader, picked up my stuff, and started to exit.
Then I looked up for a second.
The cashier, a college-student, a girl, was staring at me.
She looked like she had just been hit by the debris from a speeding tornado.
I recognized my folly, attempted a limp smile, and walked to my seat a little bit shaken.
It is much too easy to lose sight of the people we interact with for all of the things we “have” to do. And there I was, acting like this person, this human being, was less worthy of my time than my stuff, my food, and my petty little insignificant life.
I decided that I needed to make a change. Not just a metaphysical or psychological promise to “be better next time”, but a real, tangible change that would actually result in a slowing down of my busyness.
No more school or studying on Sundays. Whatever I do not get done on Saturday can, and will have to, wait until Monday evening.
I tried this out for the first time this past Sunday.
I’m not sure if it was just a placebo, but the day went by almost unnaturally slow, and I found that I was able to spend quantitative time with a multiplicity of people. After church I went and played “Settlers of Catan” with a few friends. In the early evening I was able to meet up with my brother and play squash with him for over an hour. The night was still young, however, and I went home got cleaned up and ate dinner, before heading out again. I met up with another friend and we talked for a long time, hours. It was 71 outside, so we meandered around the main quadrangles with no agenda, nothing else to do, just a chance to slow down and share life.
Sunday was beautiful.
Sunday was slow.
Have you embraced slowness lately?
Open your eyes to the people around you, be sensitive, be affected, and don’t let yourself get to the point where all you get to see is the dust from your whirlwind hitting people as you pass by on your way to do something eternally unimportant.
Just because you have a life in motion, does not mean that you must constantly live in motion.