"What do you believe is true that nobody else does?"
My husband asked as we drove into the desert landscape of rich streaky blue skies that met the jagged-hilly horizon line. My mind raced to all the things that I take extra time and care to guard. Different timeframes, like community college, and my summer in India came to mind.
I thought back to all the times I had stopped to take pictures or stare at strange designs in the pavement from car oil leaks or the formation of leaves that made them look like fairy wings. All the times I have stopped and beheld the world, and each time it has been rewarding and never a waste of time.
Finally I responded, "I have a few. My first is, I really value taking the time to be present and notice things. To 'stop and smell the roses', everyone seems in such a rush these days, and no one cares about the little bits of beauty and surprise and wonder surrounding us. The world is enchanting but I don't think people take the time to notice."
And then I thought about the importance of rest.
"I think rest is really important."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Recalling all those times of pushing myself, literally 'burning the candle at both ends.' My last semester of community college I was taking eighteen credits, working three jobs, running cross country then track (for half of it), and then became associate editor of the school newspaper. I was literally always running, I never had anytime for anyone, and whenever I did I would find myself unloading on them about how stressed I was. I didn't have the capacity to hold any one else's feelings- at least not for very long, and I could not contribute to relationships that I had once been so invested in.
Reflecting back on that year, I shake my head. I don't know how I did it, (and I'm not asking for accolades). My friends were amazed at all that I was doing, but they shouldn't have been because it wasn't in my capacity to do all those things. I was trying to achieve an expectation and I think it took me a couple years to realize that and let it go.
In India over the summer, I spent a lot of time conversing with my site-partner Trent. We would have so much time in between going to our site and returning, that we'd find ourselves talking about everything.
I distinctly remember our conversation from a time when we drove three hours away to visit another school. We were talking about how important it is to rest. We both shared how growing up in middle-class family homes made rest seem lazy. My parents, and his, are both hardworking and expected the same from their kids, and to teach them a similar work ethic. But, in many ways I feel like I missed out on so many things because I was pushing myself to work so hard.
"And," I continued, "to take time to care for yourself. I think our generation is finally finding the line between self-care and hard-work. Life is being timed whether we like it or not, and I'd rather take the time to remember it, than to burn all my days in a flurry and whirlwind of stress, worry and rushing off to jobs that really aren't healthy spaces. I don't want to miss out anymore, I want to take the time to enjoy things, and that's not wrong or lazy. My last year of community college was crazy and ridiculous. I wish I wouldn't have taken so many classes, I wasn't fully committed to any of them. I wish I didn't work so many jobs, that I'd had more time to dream and explore."
I regret rushing through college, viewing it as a race. I took way too many classes too many times and never got to fully invest in them. I don't regret my college choices or experiences, they were beautiful and I treasure them to this day- but college is not a race and we should not limit ourselves to four years, when we are still growing. Everyone thought I was doing a great job, that all my 'busyness' was a show of later success. But really, it was a show of busyness and how much it can take over your life.
What's the point of rushing through four years when you finish and feel even more lost? I think a lot of us are afraid to be like the people we know who never finished or who are in their sixth, seventh or eighth year. Yet, there are two extremes "the endless search for meaning" where you aren't committed and aimlessly taking classes or the "drill sergeant dash" where you map everything out and will kill yourself if you have to, just so you can complete your degree 'on time'- the degree you realized halfway through you don't even want anymore. And to be fair, I don't think there is an exact time limit for everyone to complete college, it's different for everyone.
And so I close with the lyrics from one of my favorite Switchfoot songs.
"This is your life, are you who you want to be? This is your life is it everything you've dreamed that it would be when the world was younger, and you had everything to lose?"