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.