I get it, you’re busy.

I am too –– the pace of life is moving so fast, you can’t even stop to consider the idea of slowing down. Even if you do consider such a thing, I doubt you’ll really do it.

What is it that are we so driven by that makes it impossible to consider slowing down? We are consumed by the notion that every second of every day has to be put toward something and hold some sort of purpose.

If we choose to rest, it is only to equip us to go on to accomplish the numerous tasks of the next day. If we choose to do something fun or less stressful one day — let’s say watch a movie — it is only to provide a brief form of relief. Until we move on to the next task and the cycle continues.

We have all lost the incentive to enjoy life at a slower pace. Because if we stop, that other person who kept going has a “better shot.” They’ll make it and I won’t. That’s the mentality I think we are living under and it is strangely paralyzing, though paradoxically: If I slow down in efforts to revitalize my energies enough to move forward, the person who didn’t stop will be one step ahead. It leaves us stuck in this battle of trying to do too much or feeling guilty if we take time to pause.

My agenda is tightly packed — too much so, I’ll admit. Even sitting down to write this demands a certain amount of peace and patience that I’m not sure I know where to find at this point in my life. My weekends become just as packed as the weekdays; even vacations carry a lingering guilt, almost a sinking feeling as my body and mind slow down. It’s a feeling that shouldn’t be foreign to us, but I feel it has become that way.

It’s the thought lurking in your mind: I should be doing something.

Our inability to rest or slow down is due, in part, by the technological advancements that make our information so instantaneous –– we are addicted now to making the rapid pace of life the norm. We are connected to so much online, it feels foreign to remove ourselves from that and just sit still.

A friend of mine recently shared with me the idea that we have grown to “compete” in our levels of workload. If one person you converse with is “so busy” with his or her three essays, you can think to yourself: “Well, I have three essays too and a midterm. Don’t tell me about a busy week.” There is an underlying pride that emerges through this game of comparison and if anything, it just pushes us to do more.

While looking at all that demands your attention — class, homework, clubs, career plans — what is it that you really want to win your time?

Typically, it is not what you are hoping for. The fun movie night you had planned is now canceled. The 10 hours of sleep you hoped for has now been dwindled down to five. Those amazing friends you wish to visit who live in Chicago, D.C. and New York will have to wait another season. It looks like next weekend won’t work after all for a visit.

Your phone reminds you of all the people you wish to call and catch up with. Scrolling through Facebook deceives you, where it seems like everyone has so much time for so many things and you are the one who needs to catch up.

Our time off, that we refer to as “free time,” has entirely lost its meaning. This “freedom” has to have such purpose, such drive and amount to such success, that the very value to which we find our most treasured relationships and feelings are discarded for the sake of finding purpose. This isn’t freedom — it’s restriction.

This isn’t to say that busyness needs to evaporate in order for value in life to be restored. Maybe the purpose behind all this craziness is that we have found ourselves stuck in needs to be reevaluated to some extent. That nice dinner with friends may cost you a few hours of homework. And then sleep. And maybe rob you of some peace the following day.

But remember that you need to slow down once in a while. Slowing down doesn’t mean falling into a trap of laziness or apathy; rather, it is finding the form of genuine and honest rest. That way, when you actually gain some free time, you’ll know what to do with it. For the moments that feel incredibly hectic and busy, you’ll be more energized and prepared to face them. 

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