Columns, Opinion

WILSHERE: Learning to slow down

Both a runner and a New Yorker by trade, the one thing I’ve always struggled with is pace. I read fast, I walk fast and sometimes, if I still have it in me, I run fast. When things get hard emotionally, I know myself to keep busy and stay as active as possible to avoid confronting feelings or personal issues. Being abroad and experiencing the pacing of different cultures has forced me to slow down

The people of Italy have perfected the art of pacing. “To-go” is practically non-existent, and the idea of putting coffee into a to-go cup is a criminal offense. This is not to punish Americans or to inconvenience travelers, but to get them to slow down. Italian culture is the culture of enjoying, whether it be savory food, breathtaking views or the company of those you care about. When I traveled through the different cities of Italy with my best friends, stopping every three hours for gelato or a cannoli, I learned to appreciate the art of Italian pacing. We would sit down for dinner, enjoy the view, the company, the food and everything that came with it. A minute would not be wasted on worrying about the next thing we would do, when we had to leave we would leave and we never left a plate or drink unfinished. Learning the importance of slowing down is pivotal to maintaining a balance between the speed of the world around us and the steady beat of our heart.

When I returned from Italy, I had a spontaneous date with a British filmmaker that I had met. We sat down and talked for hours, letting the minutes slip away without worrying. When we talked, we were able to enjoy each other’s company, laugh at each other’s inexcusable puns and stay out until the place closed. I learned about his plan for his next movie, promising it to be a hit, and I answered all the burning questions he had about America, confirming that sororities, bagel culture and American football were all in fact real. Without worry of time, I was able to be present in the moment. If I wanted to do this right, I recognized how important it would be that I paced myself. In a world of instant gratification on Tinder through swiping by hundreds of people, it’s nice to make a connection with just one.

I believe that you have to remove yourself from an environment to look at it retrospectively. A phenomenon I’ve noticed with some people is the inability to stand still for a moment, metaphorically speaking. I’ve known people to move from relationship to relationship to avoid having to acknowledge the pain of loss. I know two people who broke up with their significant others so that they could get together, leaving no time in between relationships. I know people who haven’t learned what it’s like to be by themselves. This is no fault of their own. Sometimes people don’t know how to slow down or even be alone. Some people are scared of the results and what will hit them if they stop moving. Pacing, as important as it is to the start of relationships, is just as important to the end of relationships. Allow yourself time to grieve if you need to, console yourself and relearn what it’s like to be by yourself, to be selfish in the purest way.

If nothing else, this is a plea to pace yourself. Take your time. Take a breath. Take everything you need to ensure your own happiness. Feel yourself breathe the air outside, listen to the sound of your beating heart. Be greedy with the moments of your life, taking in all that you can. Do not let the important moments slip away from you because you were too worried about what follows.

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