I’m sitting in the human resource office at Fresno City College, staring blankly at the woman helping me with my hiring paperwork. “Sign here,” she says. “And here.” I sign and, occasionally, I nod so she’ll think I’m listening, but the truth is a lot of the stuff she’s telling me is flying right over my head. Health insurance, life insurance, retirement. It’s a completely new language.
I’m twenty-six years old and I have just been offered my first real job. And although I don’t quite understand all the details of the different insurances I’m getting, I understand one thing: work like crazy for the next forty years of my life so I could retire and rest at the end of my life.
I took that message and ran with it.
Life became fast and methodical. I woke up at 6:00 a.m., was at work at 8:00 a.m., got home at 5:30 p.m., went to sleep by 11:00 p.m., and started over the next day.
That was seven years ago, and it felt like I was just starting my life. Now I find myself noticing lines on Mom’s face that I’ve never seen before. In the span of a second, shots of our time together flash through my head, and for a moment I’m floating outside of my body, watching myself become aware of the brevity of time. How in the heck did ten years pass by without me raging against it? And I don’t mean in an angry way with my fist in the air. I mean in a rebellious way, in a passionate way. How did I let time slip through my fingers?
Understanding the brevity of time
The universe is believed to be around 13 billion years old. Earth is 4.54 billion. There are over 7 billion souls on this planet, but the majority of them will not live past 71 years. When we put those numbers next to each other, we can’t escape the fact that we’re here for such a short amount of time. We barely make a wrinkle in the timeline.
And yet I so easily find myself stuck in a cage on a rat wheel, running and running towards nowhere. I sometimes describe this as being plugged into the machine. Everyday is a copy of the day before until they all kind of blend together, and before I know it, seven years has slipped by and my parents have white in their hair and I have white in my hair.
This year I’m turning 33, and I’m choosing once again to slow down--not just in my life, but also in my mind. To breathe in the winter air and really listen to the patter of raindrops outside. To bathe in the warmth of a snuggle and sink into the relief of a hot bath. I want to look into the faces of the people I love and not wonder where the time has gone.
Focusing on the now
In my early driving days, I hit a car once on the way to school. I was so scared to tell Dad, but all he said was, “Just report it to the insurance. That’s what insurance is for.”
About money, he said, “Be smart about it, but spend it. You’re not going to take it with you when you die.”
Dad is full of these stop-you-in-your-track sayings of wisdom.
Having grown up watching him and Mom manage a small cash aid budget from the government, I can say they are the best money managers I know. What Dad is saying here isn’t that you should spend everything you’ve got. What he’s saying is that if you have the money to do what you want to do, then slow down and do it. Don’t wait because life is fleeting. We never know when we’re going to leave it behind, and when we do, we won’t take the money with us.
I’ve held a professional job for nearly seven years now, and to be honest I still haven’t learned the insurance and retirement language completely. I know that saving money for retirement is important, and the more you have, the better it seems. But I also don’t want to focus so much on the end of my life that I’ve forgotten to live my life. That I’ve forgotten to slow down and focus on the present.
Discovering the power of slow
About a year ago, while scrolling through Pinterest, I ran across a blog post titled, “How I Made $10,000 with One Blog Post.” And I was hooked.
I learned how to start my own blog. Within a couple of months, I had a blog up and running. It was fast and it was scary. I blogged about things that I thought people would want to read. I blogged about money, grad school, relationships, mindset, career. Everything.
Several months in, exhausted and unfulfilled, I learned that the get-rich-quick type of blogging wasn’t my type of blogging. There were many of those blogs out there, filled with ads and sponsored posts, generating millions of dollars everyday. But my blog wasn’t about that. My blog was about life and the story of one girl trying to live the best life she could.
I made the decision not to monetize my blog. I wanted, first, to see where my writing was taking me. I slowed down. After a year, I learned that my best posts were the posts where I tell a personal story of change. I learned that stories mattered, that they built empathy and compassion and connections. And building connections was what I wanted to do all along.
Slowing down doesn’t mean giving up.
It doesn’t mean letting something come to an end. It means giving yourself enough time to breathe, to reflect and to focus. Slowing down means going back to what is important.
Paolo Coelho said, “We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
So let’s not waste it.
If I had continued to chase money through my blog, I would’ve been lost in the fast life, and I would’ve never found my true reason for blogging. If I continue to focus so much on the future, I would miss the important moments of my life now. So I’m slowing down. I want to look back on this life that I’ve been given and have no regrets. I want to look into the faces of the people I love and know that even though time has passed, the time wasn’t lost. Instead, it went to laughter and moments of true connection.