Slow lane/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Life in the slow lane

I was in the supermarket checkout when I had my revelation. There I was, items in basket, ready to join the seemingly endless queue of customers. Tesco’s was very popular indeed. On an ordinary day, my logical instinct would be to look for the shortest queue, a conveyor belt where scanning and paying would be over in no time at all.

But on this particular day, I was drawn to the longer queue. Despite having very few items, I wanted to take the time to load them on, prepare my method of payment, find my electronic clubcard and all without the pressure of having customers behind me, impatient and pushed for time themselves.

I decided that the best way to sort out my predicament was to join the long queue, where I would have plenty of time to think and prepare myself. There was time to pack and pay without delaying those who needed to rush elsewhere after their shopping expedition.

Life in the slow lane can, however, feel impossible at university

This small example speaks as a metaphor for university as a whole. It’s a theory that extends beyond standing in a long line at a supermarket or enjoying the luxury of the slow lane in a swimming pool. There’s a virtue in taking university, and life generally, in the slow lane. It entails thought and care when making decisions, trying not to rush into situations and an appreciation of being in the moment.

This ‘Welcome Week’ has involved plenty of decisions, lots of them amazing ones. I’ve had to choose my optional module choices. My former self would have panicked that my preferred choices would be sold out when I wanted to join. Now, I mused some ideas in my head but didn’t rush to a decision. Over many mugs of tea and a jam-packed module fair, I weighed up my interests and selected my options with clarity and rationality.

Life in the slow lane can, however, feel impossible at university. There is so much to think about both within and outside of a degree.

Taking life slowly means spending time in the present, being mindful of one’s surroundings, and learning to enjoy every little moment

I visited the societies fair – a buzz and rush of activity – but saved my decision making until later. The impulsive purchasing of society memberships was replaced by longer term thought.

In my first week here, I’ve come to believe the stresses of academic and personal life can be resolved by societies. By attending a number of introductory sessions, I’ve come to see how friendly and welcoming they are. Society events are a perfect escape from the lecture theatre by giving individuals the freedom to explore their interests. If you need a break from the whirlwind of academic life, attending a society event might just be the perfect respite.

Life in the slow lane should mean appreciating the here and now. Many undergraduate degrees are only three years, with some postgraduate qualifications even shorter. The time will fly by and, before you know it, it’s time to look for a job. It is easy – and right – to think about the future. I do so all the time, mentally fast forwarding to imagine what my life will be like.

Life at university and the ‘real world’ will probably always feel supersonic. I say it’s time to put on the brakes

Yet the importance of living in the present cannot be stated enough. Taking life slowly means spending time in the present, being mindful of one’s surroundings, and learning to enjoy every little moment. It can be tricky, I’ll grant you that, but it’s surely less stressful than one’s mind constantly rushing to speculate the future or regret the past.

Earlier this week I attended a fantastic mindfulness session where, upon shutting my eyes, I promptly fell asleep. If that’s not living life slowly, I don’t know what is. Try mindfulness, perhaps yoga, or simply learn to enjoy life’s littlest moments. Life at university and the ‘real world’ will probably always feel supersonic. I say it’s time to put on the brakes.

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