This past weekend, I traveled home to help my family move. Between the hectic bursts of packing and unpacking I had the chance to catch up with my mom, and we chuckled at the fact that we both felt so busy in our lives, whether it was because of work, day-to-day responsibilities, or the chaos of life in general.
In recent months, I’ve had many conversations with friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who’ve professed just how overwhelmed they felt at times, and how they wished they had some time to slow down or take much-needed breaks. Along with my recent self-reflection of finding more opportunities to slow down and enjoy the underrated practice of alone time, I’ve come across a another very relevant concept in the most unconnected way.
Several weeks ago, I attended CAAMFest 2015, a film festival showcasing the works of Asian American independent filmmakers and new Asian cinema. One of my favorite movies from that event was Dot 2 Dot, a Cantonese indie film set in Hong Kong. Apart from the gorgeous cinematography and the unconventional (and clever) take on a romance movie, Dot 2 Dot introduced a concept called Slow Living – the protagonist’s response to a frantic city pace.
Intrigued, I did some more research on the topic and found a wealth of information on a movement that stemmed from a 1986 protest of the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. The original Slow Food movement paved the way to the broader Slow Movement, a cultural shift of mindful living and slowing down the pace of life.
I think journalist Carl Honoré captures this way of life perfectly in his description of the Slow Movement:
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
The more I read about the movement, the more I realized that the answer was in front of us all along.
During college I kept myself busy with school, work, and clubs – so busy in fact that I had very little down time, sleep, and moments of self-reflection. I was always on the move, always on to the next thing, day in and day out. It took health scares, family issues, and lots of introspection before I began to realize that maybe this was not the ideal way to live.
When I broke it down further, I saw that my experience wasn’t an isolated case – it was common in the world and culture that we all live in. From 6 second abs to 15 productivity hacks, many things in society promise to save us time by speeding things up. And while these timesavers aren’t necessarily bad things (and many are legitimately practical), they do reflect our mentality that the faster and more efficiently we do things, the more we can achieve in order to be successful in life.
The beauty of Slow Living is it teaches that a well-paced life and a successful life are not mutually exclusive. To me, Slow Living is remembering that it’s okay to take breaks, to enjoy the present moment, and to be mindful of the truly important things in life, without losing the self-motivation of wanting to achieve greatness in all that we do.
I consider myself a novice who’s making a better effort to practice these tenets, and I also like the concept of “seasons” in life which may see much busier periods with breaks in between (similar to the HIIT method of working out). But at the end of the day I believe that the untempered race to achievement and success in our culture may be hurting us more than we’d like to think. In a world of uncertainty and confusion, sometimes the solution is in plain sight.