You Gotta Be Still Before You Can Get Ahead

by Susan Pogorzelski on July 29, 2009 · 10 comments

Thinking the faster that I go
The faster I will reach my goal
The race is not given to the swift
But to the one who endureth
Sometimes you gotta be still
Before you can get ahead…

India Arie, “Slow Down”


Spending three weeks in a remote mountain village can change your perspectives on a lot of things. For example, it gives you a greater appreciation for conveniences like a grocery store that doesn’t visit every week via truck or what it means to haul logs every weekend so that you can keep the wood stove burning in order to stay warm. Believe me, these are experiences I loved and loathed and will never, ever forget.

But it also shows you how fast you’re going in a world that’s moving even faster, trying to keep up with technology, information, and people who seem to already be light years ahead of you. And so, I’m trying to remember: whatever happened to leisurely walks to gather your thoughts; whatever happened to waking up when the sunlight poured in through your window?

Whatever happened to slowing down?

I wasn’t used to this village life, and I missed my life back home while I was away — more so than I care to admit. But I loved it. Looking back, I loved every single minute of it. I loved the fact that the neighbors would wander out of their house when the bread truck blew it’s horn as it traveled up the road; I loved how these neighbors would stop and say hello and hold long conversations with each other. I loved that I could wake up in the morning and wander downstairs to the library, sit near the fire, and read and write all day long; I loved that I could eat when I was hungry, enjoy a nap when I was tired, go for a short walk when I wanted to be outside.

Looking back, I know exactly what it meant to have time.

And so, I have to ask myself: why am I in such a hurry now? Why are we all? Why are we trying our hardest to be the first, the best? Why is everything suddenly about strategy and getting ahead? Why are we in such competition with each other for better jobs, better pay, better fill-in-the-blank? Where is that leading us, why are we so desperate to accomplish everything now, and what does that mean for us and for our futures?

Whatever happened to just living and enjoying what we have as we move forward at our own, selected pace?

I’m just as guilty of all of this; there’s no way that I’m exempt. I’ve placed my own high expectations on myself and often charged full-speed ahead seeking accomplishments. But it never seemed enough. And because of that, I got so caught up in going faster, further, that I lost sight of everything that was important to me and, in that process, I lost sight of why it was important to me in the first place, as well.

I forgot everything that mattered.

Perhaps it’s a bit of cynicism edging out my naturally optimistic self, but I’ve become tired of this race, tired of this competition. I remember what it was like in that small French village, where there was support and encouragement and gratitude for the experience we were all sharing together. There was no envy. There was no maneuvering. There was no rush.

There, on that mountain, it was just us and time and a chance to appreciate the fact that we had both.

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