On the highway, I could easily “put the pedal to the metal” and cruise at 80 miles per hour towards my destination. Watching trees pass by. Windows down. Music blasting.
The problem is when I don’t know where that destination is. I’m going fast, but I don’t even know where I’m going.
Looking back, it feels like life went by fast even though I’m still only 18. I remember when I got stitches on my lip and chin like it was just last week even though it was 11 years ago. I can still vividly picture the moment I got disqualified at a swim meet because I didn’t flip-turn correctly and lost the first place title even though it happened when I was 12.
The same is true when thinking about what I wanted to be. Growing up, my dream job changed at the same speed that I hit snooze when I hear my alarm blare: fast. I would want to be a teacher one week, a chef the next. The possibilities were endless, but at the same time, these possibilities weren’t promised. This wasn’t Aladdin. There’s no Genie that grants my wishes for what the future holds. None of it is for certain.
Not only does it feel like life is moving fast, it feels like everything is getting faster and faster. We can look something up on Google and get answers within seconds. We order food and it comes to us in a short amount of time.
But time itself is still staying the same. There’s still 60 seconds to a minute, 24 hours to a day.
The result: we, as a collective society, are losing our ability to slow down.
And I don’t mean this in terms of driving speeds. I mean this in the sense that many people chase the adrenaline rush –– that blood pumping feeling where, even if just for a second, you can do anything in the world. In school we’re always go, go, go. At work we’re always go, go, go. It’s hard to take things at a slower pace as the world becomes more work-centric, so we feel that we have to constantly be doing something productive in order to be doing something worthwhile.
But as a result, we miss out on moments that happen in those same milliseconds that we’re speed-walking to class or stressed out about an upcoming deadline.
In the example of driving a car, some people choose to go 20 or 30 miles per hour past the speed limit when there’s no other cars around. But if you slow down, go at the speed limit, you’ll see all the things you were missing along the way. You’ll see the children playing together outside. You’ll notice how the cloud twists and turns into different shapes. You’ll absorb the energy of the warm sun as it starts to set while the sky turns into hues of orange and pink.
So if you asked me now what I want to be, I’ll tell you I want to be a psychologist. But in my mind, the sole thing that I really want is to be content with myself and the environment that I am in. It may sound cliché, but I feel it’s a thought that can resonate with a lot of people, but it’s also not something that I feel we take the time to think about.
The future is so unpromised I find it hard motivating myself to continue pursuing a major. It’s hard to decide what I want to dedicate the rest of my life to when I’m not even 20. If I could, I would pack up my bags and live in NYC or Seoul for a bit with no exact plan in mind until I feel like it’s time for the next destination. If I could, I would live in the now and not with my head calculating the steps of my future.
Lately, I actively remind myself to slow down. To take a break from school when I can and dedicate that time to activities that help me enjoy life, even in a pandemic. Whether that be going on a walk with my family or looking out the window when my parents are driving instead of being consumed by my phone, I think soaking in my surroundings is just as fulfilling as that adrenaline rush.
For now, I’ll be going cruising through life at 20 mph towards an unpromised future. And I’m okay with that.
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