What is Slow Living?
If you looked at my life over the past few years you would think my favourite word was ‘complicated’ or ‘chaos’ or ’crammed.’ I chose to move to the other side of the planet, after all. To pull together some semblance of a life in a language that wasn’t my own. To set up a life that completely defied the orderly, or the normal, or the expected. I wrote poems and articles on the back of shuddering shuttles, too-full buses, friends cars and once, even on the back of a motorbike.
Constantly, I committed to too many projects or started too many new ideas at once. I relished the adrenaline as I pushed too close to deadlines, wondering if it was all going to fall apart the next day.
I have spent money as fast as I have made it on weekend trips here or there. I’ve drank more than I probably should have and made choices I probably shouldn’t have.
When I arrived I believed the only way I could write any good or live a life that was of any lasting significance or legacy was if I was always two steps away from my life falling completely apart, my heart rate forever that second off-beat.
I thought the good stuff came from the chaos, from me throwing myself into the fire time and time again and coming out with lines, polished and hardened like precious stone, ready to gift the world.
But for the last year at least I’ve found myself craving slow, and simple.
The term ‘slow living’ has come to mind more than once and I’ve found myself trying to define what that might mean for me.
Because while I might have thought this live-fast-create-hard-go-go-go philosophy was the way to go, I’ve started to see it for what it was; a fear of empty spaces. Because when I was chaotically scratching a poem together for one work contract at the middle of an international land border crossing with car horns and voices the voices of street vendors screaming in my head, I didn’t have time to think about the important questions I’ve been too terrified to face. When I was constantly posting on social media and receiving validation for it I didn’t have to really sit with myself. When I was moving, I never had to stop and take a breath and look at the truth that has breathing down my neck for a while now.
Which is this; I’m not the girl who arrived over three years ago.
Looking for an adventure, who just desperately wanted a way to sustainably make a life work on the other side of the planet, who was wide eyed and didn’t believe I could possibly make it and was scared of it ending any second. Who believed any bullshit that happened to me in life was ‘content’ and would ‘end up in a book somewhere, someday.’ Who believed I had to seek out the storms and live them through my body and turn them into stories. Who romanticised mess and confusion and disaster.
Because while there is chaotic elements of my life; a beautiful, loud, intense Guatemalan family inherited from my partner, constantly going between El Salvador and Guatemala and losing half my shit along the way, my life is actually pretty steady. I have a partner, a cat, a lease on an apartment. The world has spun three times over.I work online. I live in Guatemala. I have standards of how I expect to be treated and I find the kind of gut-wrenching emotions I used to chase, frankly, exhausting and repulsive. There’s no big hook coming out from behind the curtain to grab me around the neck, pull me out of my life and put me on a plane back to Australia and tell me I need to get a traditional 9-5. No one gives a shit. This is my life now.
But recently, these questions have been begging to be answered:
Who am I, now?
What do I want, now?
What’s important to me, now?
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And who am I when I’m not producing, when I’m not moving this place or that, when I’m not forcing, cramming, striving, running, when I’m not in the thick of chaos?
I realised the only way I can figure this out is if I commit to slow living.
When I sit down and get really honest with myself, I am completely different to the 22 year old girl who arrived to El Salvador three years ago.
I’m currently trying to figure out, though, who that is.
One thing I know for sure is my desire for chaos has been replaced by an insatiable desire for a slow and deep kind of living.
I want to drown out the pace of everyone around me and go at my own rate. I want to start listening to my own systems, my own guidance. To only hold real estate in my brain for that which is important, and nothing more.
How does someone even start to live slow?
My obvious first step was to disable my personal Instagram for a while. It was impossible to hear myself think when my head was constantly flooded with everyone else. Or when I was framing my life for the consumption of others. Its been a week and there’s a quiet in my head I haven’t experienced in years. When I’d usually scroll, I sit. I look out the window. I drink in the company of whoever I’m with, fully. If I feel uncomfortable, or bored, I force myself to sit in that discomfort, or boredom. When I feel a craving to post or share, I ask myself why. One of my best friends from Australia came to visit me this week. Usually be sharing all the cool shit we’re doing and all the places we’re going. But now, it feels kind of special to keep it to myself.
My other current project is I want to enjoy what I have in my life. Instead of focusing on that which I don’t have that I want to acquire.
The relationship my partner and I have built, the live we’ve made. The friendships I’ve cultivated. People with unshakeable integrity. Who hold me in love and accountability. Who champion me and challenge me. The business I’ve already co-founded, mothered, and worked for, that is only now starting to find its wings. I’ve worked hard to learn how to surf. I want to enjoy that.
That goes for material things too. I have enough stuff. I don’t need anything else.
I want to focus on all this, for a while, at a granular level. Enjoy all this, for a while, without a thought of ‘what’s next.’
A few years ago I ran myself ragged in pursuit of a ‘big life.’ Now, I want a deep life. A slow life.
I invite you to explore where in your life you can slow it down too.
Feature Image: Dominique Granger