I once got a ticket for following the car in front of me too closely. In other words, tailgating. I was in a hurry and the '78 Toyota 2-door with the rusty fender was in my way.
Six months later I got another citation for speeding. 55 in a 35 mph residential zone. Technically, it was a felony. The young patrolman took pity on me and knocked it down to a simple speeding infraction.
In those days, I was always in a hurry. Looking back, I can't really justify the rushing I did. The daily dash didn't help, other than to create mistakes in an age-old haste-makes-waste kind of way.
College gave me 4 years of independence that delivered a degree, but also taught me joy, regret, inspiration, fear and dedication. Over those 4 years, I learned that in order to succeed, there are times when I must put pressure on myself. With a newly-minted degree in hand, that pressure mutated into something more ominous. Looming waves of urgency washed over me, joined by a self-inflicted need to succeed, to please my parents, and to "make something of myself".
Post-college weeks melted into months that became years. My life unfolded in a way that many others do. A desire for "the good life" cast a long shadow across my hopes and dreams for the future. I rented the nicest apartments, wore the most in-vogue clothes and shoes, and drove the best European hatchback I could afford. My paychecks evaporated in the quest to look the right way, have the right things, travel in the right circles.
Each day was a race. No one joined me, however. I was my own toughest competitor, my most vocal critic, my own harshest taskmaster. Thinking I could achieve a higher level of efficiency if I got more done each day, my routine became a nonstop blitz through life.
This creed served me in a bare-bones sort of way. Over the years, I accomplished those goals I held in such high esteem. I had the handsome husband, the adorable kids, the second degree, the nice home, nice car, designer handbags, highlighted hair, and polished fingernails. I was living in high cotton, but beginning to feel crippled and trapped.
Sitting in my station wagon one day, trying to pry myself from a gridlocked mall parking lot, a bolt of sense hit me from out of the blue. I had spent the entire day shopping for things I didn't need, which would occupy household space I didn't have, with money that should have been used on more important things. All of a sudden, I wanted to be anywhere but there. In the blink of an eye, all of the objectives and ambitions that dominated my life and drove me at a breakneck pace were swept away.
It was all so unimportant. I had to STOP!
I gradually began to slow down. I started to draw and paint again. I picked up the camera I had abandoned after college and spent whole days wandering the countryside, harvesting pictures along the way. On my 40th birthday I remembered that I would like to find a plot of land somewhere and develop my own small farm.
Now, years later, still have the same handsome husband , the same adorable kids - 2 of which are out on their own- and the nice car. But the home is a tiny Colonial farmhouse we are renovating, the designer handbags are refugees from the high-cotton years, I get my hair trimmed once a year on my birthday, and the only bottle of nail polish in the house is clear and used to treat bug bites. I never rush any more. I keep to the posted speed limit, not because I'm afraid of an accident, but because I want to look across the fields and admire the dynamic skies of the Kuyahoora Valley. I put aside more pressing duties to walk in the perennial patch of chocolate mint that grows in the boggy top half of our farm, just to enjoy the mint-scented air.
Turning my back on my rat-race lifestyle took time. I had to continually remind myself there's nothing so important that I had to curtail a visit with a neighbor, or serve an uninspired meal to my family. There are 24 hours to every day. Some seem to have less. Even so, I never squander a minute. These days, watching the sun set and relishing the evening breeze is as important as any other life-shattering event happening in the world. These days, I can fully delight in and savor each moment.
No matter what it brings.