Apr 17

Slow Living: What We Have Time for

For me, slow living is all about figuring out exactly what it is that you have time for.

As I write this, I should be grading. Hell, before I started writing this, I was walking the dog. And during the time I was walking the dog, I should’ve been grading too. I’m a college instructor. There are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be grading.

Slow Living: What We Have Time For

And as a writer, there are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be writing. Even if I count every idea scribbled on a Post-It, every notebook bleeding ink, Word Docs filled with rambling prose, and every last stolen minute I took to write, I still wouldn’t write enough.

But that’s the thing of it, isn’t it? Whatever we do isn’t enough, and we always feel like we’re running out of time.

Whatever we do isn't enough, and we always feel like we're running out of time. Click To Tweet

I had this thought on the dog walk, and knew I needed to get home and write it.

For me, I don’t feel like there aren’t enough days left in my life. I’m 31, which is relatively young. I do worry about the hours in the day, though. How is it already 3 PM? How did Tuesday pass me by? I swear, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. Even though I still feel like there is plenty of time left in my life, I can easily see how it’s all slipping away, and getting me to a point where there won’t be enough time.

So I slow down. I don’t wish days away. I don’t live for deadlines or benchmarks. And even though I feel like I should be further in my career right now, I’m very content with where my life is.

I think we all see what’s possible and we want it immediately. We all see what others were able to accomplish with relatively little time, and we think we should do that too.

I definitely used to feel that way. I’ve been slowing down a lot lately. I’m obsessed with slow living, especially as I see others scrambling their way through life.

(Slow living, for those who don’t trawl the blogosphere/podcastosphere for content about how to take a chill pill, is living life at a slower pace. It’s taking a step back and enjoying life. It’s refusing to be manic, even when every other aspect of daily life would have you believe that you need to keep up. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out The Art of Simple and No Sidebar.)

I’ve stepped back and realized that I’m supposed to be here. I am embracing the marathon mindset, because I know everything is a slow burn. I’m making time for picnics. I’m saying no to things I don’t need. I’m creating space to breathe when the rest of the world is underwater. I refuse to choose busy. I’m setting my own agenda. I’m living my own damn life, y’all.

This got me to thinking about the things I value, and the things I have time for. It made me realize that the only reason I want to be further in my career is because I want writing to be the day job, not the side hustle. It made me realize that I’ve been valuing that paycheck and health benefits more than I have the very thing I was meant to do with my life.

And while I can’t very well quit my day job (unless some rich benefactor wants to pay for my existence while I hole up in my house and write my butt off), I can focus more on what I have time for.

Even though I know what I want, I haven’t made time for it. I have, however, made time for Netflix, fast food, too much social media, and Tetris. I’m shocked by how much time I’ve spent zoning out while staring at the TV, or poisoning my body with garbage or just scrolling through my phone, or just rotating those little tetrominos. (That free app is killer. I’ll delete it, but add it one afternoon when I want to shut my brain off — usually after grading like a fiend. If there’s a way to completely block an app from your phone, I’d love to know because I don’t have that level of willpower.)

Even though I’m not happy I’ve spent time doing that, I know why I have. It’s easy to shut down your brain. It’s easy to zone out. It’s easy to consume. But that’s the thing about slow living. It’s hard. It’s deliberate. It’s focused.

For me, slow living is figuring out everything that is important and vital to my existence, and letting the other things fall away.

This realization is one thing, taking action is another.

So for today, I’m starting. I’m taking stock of the things I have time for.

I have time to write. I have time for Chris. I have time for family. I have time for dog walks. I have time for daydreaming. I have time for deep conversations about magic and spirituality. I have time to listen to my favorite records over and over and over. I have time to read poems in the middle of the day because that’s what I need to do. I have time to cook a meal made of real food that won’t put me in the hospital or give me a heart attack.

I’ve been taking stock of privilege lately. I have benefited immensely from the privileges I possess. And yet, I’ve operated as if everything I have will someday be taken away from me. I’ve been overly hungry. I’ve been like Smaug the Dragon laying on my hoard. I’ve been manic. I’ve believed that I needed to work myself to death. I’ve believed that I don’t have time to take care of myself. I’ve believed that I needed all the things that were being sold to me.

This is all fairly woo woo and vague. But if you’re here, then I have to believe that 1.) you know that’s who I am and what I write about, and 2.) you’re here for that.

I’m here for that too. This is what I have time for.

Slow living is what I have time for. Click To Tweet

P.S. The whole time I was writing this, Non-Stop from Hamilton was running through my head.

Have you ever stepped back and wanted to slow down? Why do you write like you’re running out of time? What do you have time for?

Oct 16

Keep It 100: How Moderation is Self-Sabotage

Keep It 100

One of the things that always blows my mind about students is the lengths that some will go to NOT do the assignment. I’m settling in to that time of year where my days are filled with teaching, and my nights are filled with paper grading. And there’s always one student in every class who spends way too much time and energy looking for a work around rather than actually doing the assignment.

  • This is the student who asks if they actually have to write in complete sentences. (It’s a college-level writing course. DO NOT ASK THAT.)
  • This is the student who can’t be bothered to do all the regular assignments, but wants extra credit assignments for days. (As if I want to sit around creating new assignments to grade.)
  • This is the student who goes through their 5-page paper, and makes all the periods font size 20, so it takes up more space. (I invented that one, bucko, but I got to use it before professors graded digitally, so I got away with it.)

I could go on, but I don’t want some student stumbling onto this post while they’re on a deadline, and thinking they’ve just found all the ways they can get away with not doing the work.

I bring all this up because students have a tendency to put way too much into workarounds. They put too much into not actually doing what they need to do. They give 70% effort all around, and nothing gets fully done. And if I’m being real, I do that too.

Are you self-sabotaging with moderation? Click To Tweet

See, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to build habits. I want to stop biting my nails. I want to quit drinking diet soda. I want to work out regularly. I want to wake up at the same time every day. I want to attack my to do list with the sort of zeal exhibited by a pack of wild dogs on a 3-legged cat. I want to be the person who I know I am in my head, only my head won’t always let me be her.

The other day, I realized that I’ve put too much of my life toward moderation. I mean, how often do you hear “everything in moderation” only to practice that idiom and find that it gets you nowhere? And the definition of moderation is just avoiding extremes. Extremes are relative. The definition of too much or too little is up to your personal interpretation, and even then, let’s not even act like we don’t all operate on sliding scales when someone merely suggests we expand our definitions.

I read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin last year, and I’m finally starting to believe what she says about personalities. Basically, some people have the capacity for moderation. A lot of people don’t. And when I try to live  with moderation as my guidepost, it sets me up for failure.

Keep It 100

When my students spend hours trying to find clever ways to not do their homework, it’s like me trying to live in moderation. It’s me giving my attention to too many things at once. It’s me trying to be everything to everyone. It’s me going out for beers after work even when I know I want to wake up at 5 AM the next day. It’s me going shopping when I want to see if I can go a whole month without spending money. It’s me doing cardio and then yoga all before 8 AM, only to eat 4 donuts by 2 PM.

That’s why I have to keep it 100. I have to pick a side and stick to it. I have to focus all my energy in the direction I want it to go. I can’t metaphorically change the sizes of the periods in the essay of my life and expect to get an A. (That was a terrible metaphor. And I want you to know that I keep it 100 by being nigh unreadable.)

So let me ask you this: Are you able to live in moderation? How do you keep it 100? Have you ever given something up completely so you could keep it 100?

Let me know in the comments. I live vicariously through your successes.