The Slow Food Kind of Success

I am slow.

And this is healthy.

At least, that’s my excuse.  But I enjoy slow food, and slow, aimless wandering.  I like a project that takes a very long time to complete, one that involves patience and a sinking into the imagination.  Once in that state of calm, a bubbling well begins to flow.

Comparing myself to the fast track leaders gets me down.  I feel less worthy when I learn that people who started a business during the same year I did are now speaking to 800 plus people in Brazil while their book is taking flight.  I struggle when in the presence of my son’s new Tae Kwon Do instructor as he tells the story of his childhood spent practicing his sport over four hours a day and that he began teaching at age 12.  The intensity of his focus and drive unsettles me.  I just wanted Elliot to have some fun and learn a few kicks.  But now, the activity feels driven.  My son remarked after his first lesson that “Daddy will be happy to know my new teacher is STERN.”

I know the world needs success driven over-achievers.  But they make me want to hide.

My education took over a decade to complete, in bits and pieces while I mothered my children.  It was the slowest road, full of potholes and rocks and struggle.  But by the end, I had tasted the flavors of so many different institutions, met some incredibly kind professors (and some who baffled me with arrogance.)  I read some very depressing books through the lens of identity politics. They felt so far removed from my understanding of life and real relationships.  

Upon graduation, I still didn’t feel ready to take on a profession.  Business professionals intimidated me. I took a low paying job in an inner city library where gangs operated business in the computer lab.  After being assaulted by a homeless man and feeling threatened by the idea that a man was aiming his semi-automatic weapon at the library, I took a leave of absence that turned into unemployment.  Just when I should have been polishing a resume and selecting attire for interviews, the US economy fell into shambles and I lost the confidence to try.

I returned to college to work as a housekeeper, and was assigned to dust and polish the campus library.  A cowardly retreat!

During the fall convocation, new hires were introduced to faculty.  Since I had been working for several months, all of the library staff knew me.  To my utter amazement, they showered me with applause and gave me a standing ovation for my work keeping the library spotless.  After this, the college president shook my hand and asked me in a pleading voice, “please don’t leave.”

That was a fast track success moment.  I had only been on staff for six months!  

But this moment was tainted by disappointment.  I didn’t want to be the best housekeeper.  I wanted to be using my mind and my other creative abilities for something that satisfied and challenged me.  A working life that was a little messier and more social.

So even though I had experienced outstanding success in my job in less than a year, I was eager to move on to new experiences where I was immersed in learning curves and the continued experience of crossing that line between ignorance and understanding.

This means I am slow. 





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