COVID-19 sure has been a pain in the butt, but one thing it has encouraged me to do is just slow down. I’ve realized that prior to this time, I never stopped to take a moment for myself, to appreciate the moment I was in, or just stop and see the world. I packed my schedule with school, work, clinicals, extracurriculars, homework…but never any time for myself.
When I went home for spring break last year, I had some time to slow down and realized I had a lot of regrets. As much as I loved school, extracurriculars, and clinicals, it left me without a lot of time for homework or work, so, before I knew it, I really had no time for friends, family, or myself. I regretted not spending enough time with my roommates, constantly running from one thing to the next, doing homework while spending time with friends, and never really being fully there.
I was especially never fully there for myself.
I was always thinking about the next day, how busy I would be tomorrow if I watched this movie with my friends tonight instead of doing homework, how tired I would be if I made dinner with my roommates instead of just eating quick and then doing work. It seemed I could never balance anything. I was in a constant state of stress and ended up being too stressed to enjoy anything.
Luckily, most of that changed when everyone was locked in and was forced to slow down. I was bored and anxious at first—nothing to do, too much free time. I hated it. I hated going from a constant state of action and movement to just nothing. As hard as it was, it was what I needed. I needed to take that time to just do nothing. It taught me to take that into the rest of my life even now when I’m back to being a full-time student and working full time most weeks.
This semester, I took fewer classes and extracurriculars so I could fully enjoy the classes and clubs I’m in. It spread me less thin so I could be fully there—not worrying about the next meeting or event I had to be at. As much as I always want to be doing everything, I learned that’s not effective for me. I realized I wasn’t actually doing anything well; I was just doing a lot mediocre. This year, I’m doing my best to be fully invested in everything I do. I love my classes, and I make the time for them and enjoy them. I love my job; I get so much joy from it and allow myself to be fully there when I clock in and forget about life outside work. I do my homework seriously and take my time to learn from it and not just do it to get it done. While my day-to-day life has slowed down, I also took a giant step out of my comfort zone to slow down my entire life.
I used to live on a rigid schedule, I wanted to fly through college, graduate on time, get a job, and keep going on and on and hitting all the major life goals on time.
On-time. Yeah, on time is what really messed me up. On-time for what? What everyone else did? What my advisor suggested timeline-wise? What my friends were doing? Not my own timeline. I lived on the timeline I thought I was supposed to be living on.
Luckily, COVID-19 slowed me down.
I was faced with the decision to stay on track—on my imaginary timeline––and give up on my dreams or to slow down and attempt to follow my dreams. I’m proud to say I chose to follow my hopes and dreams instead of sticking to the stupid timeline I thought I had to follow. I had plans to student-teach abroad in Australia and New Zealand in spring 2021, but due to COVID-19 I was not able to do that. I was told I should instead choose to teach locally––to stay on track of course. That darn track, timeline, expected speed we are all supposed to be moving at.
I said no way. No. I’m done giving up on one thing just to get another thing done. This is my life I’m talking about!
I almost chose to give up on my plans, hopes, and dreams just to stay on track!! On what track!? The track universities suggest students follow. The track most college students follow. The track my friends and family thought I would be on. I got so wrapped up in the idea that I needed to stay on track and keep buzzing through my life and college that I almost lost track of what I wanted.
Now, I have time to stop and smell the flowers. Not only smell the flowers but also take classes out of interest, not need. I get to read books for fun. I get to take classes I never had time for. I get to spend more time in my college town and at the job I love. And ultimately, I get the possibility to still student-teach abroad. It’s not for sure, but it’s a better chance than I had this semester.
That sentence right there is the kicker.
I’m pushing back student teaching by a single semester. I almost gave up on my dreams in exchange to be done one single semester earlier. That’s how wrapped up I was in the idea of my timeline and schedule.
Life goes too fast.
I buzzed through too much of it looking for what’s next, what more I could do, and how I could get there faster. COVID-19 was a bit of a blessing in disguise for me. As the world slowed down around me, I took it with strides and found ways to slow down my own life as well. This didn’t come easy at first. I hated it. I hated slowing down and doing less. I hated staying in and not going to meetings, classes, and clinicals. It took me a while, but I finally learned to appreciate it. I learned to find the good in slowing down.
I want to stop and smell the flowers more often. And I will.