The most striking contrast between our lives in Austin and Mexico boils down to a single variable: the pace at which we live. We have slowed our day-to-day to half or even a third the speed that we had been living. What does it feel like? A bit like dropping 100 pounds. Like we’ve stepped off the hamster wheel. Like we’ve discovered a secret portal into the kind of existence we always knew was possible but which had always seemed just out of reach. It feels so much more natural.
When I talk to my friends back home, particularly those with families, I hear the same thing from everyone, “We’re good, just crazy busy,” followed by accounts of schedules and obligations that give me flashbacks and make me all the more grateful for my new found knowledge: being busy does not make for a happier or more fulfilled life. Likewise, it does not provide us with an adequate sense of identity or purpose, though it seems to be the new common denominator of the whole country.
Oddly enough, as a culture, we aren’t busier because we have to be. Your family will no longer starve to death if you don’t get the crop in before the freeze. It’s not likely that you have to build that new fence this weekend in order to defend your food source from wolves. You’re not exactly hurrying to Target to trade hides for a new ax in time to chop your winter’s cord. On the contrary, we are more likely busy with nonessential activities that we’ve grown to believe are essential.
Then why are we so busy?
- Because we’re afraid to slow down lest we “fall behind.”
- Because many live under a “scarcity mentality,” and feel like they never have enough.
- Because it costs a lot of money to participate in a highly consumptive culture.
- Because most U.S. cities are not walkable and car cultures inherently speed everything up.
- Because we are taught from the time we are born that busy equals significant.
- Because if we work faster, harder and longer, we will be able to afford the “finer” things in life.
- Because we are trying to make up for the gratification that comes with “chop wood, carry water” kind of work that is intrinsically meaningful and almost unheard of in modern lifestyles.
- Because the older generations who’ve lived life at slower pace are no longer the ones calling the shots.
- Because everyone else is in a hurry and we know no other way.
So, are these things true? Am I any better a person, wife, mother, neighbor or friend because my agenda is full? Will I find the balance I seek by adding more things or experiences to my days? Our year in Mexico has proven the exact opposite to be the case for our family. We are more content, less stressed, and tighter as a family. We cook more, consume less and share the household chores. Friends stop by every day and no one is inconvenienced. We take our time doing whatever it is that needs to be done for the day.
I don’t know the ins and outs of your daily life. I just know the way we used to live. It was CRAZY. Clearly, moving to Mexico is not the answer to everyone’s hectic schedule, and we’re going to have to work hard to keep this balance whenever we move back to the states, but I can tell you this with absolute certainty: life is worth slowing down for. There’s a sweetness that we miss when we live it too fast. There’s a inexplicable contentment to be gained by living closer to the speed humans have lived for millions of years.
What’s the worst that could happen if we all slowed down? Less spending? More home-cooked meals? I think the real question is what’s going to happen if we don’t?