When I published on this blog a small thoughtful text on turning 25, I wasn’t expecting the response I received. For the first time since I started my little corner on the web, people other than my mother shared links to the post on Facebook. Friends and acquaintances that I hadn’t talked to in ages messaged me saying what I had written had spoken to them, that they had related to my words, someone even told me I’d inspired them. And it made me realise something very important, the main reason why we don’t seem to even understand what’s going on deep down in our minds before we see it written down by someone else.
I am, and always have been, the kind of girl who will trip over herself because she suddenly looked over her shoulder and realised how beautiful the afternoon light is when it touches the outlines of the clouds. I’m the girl who will try to make seagulls or foxes come to her knowing very well they’re going to run miles in the opposite direction unless she’s holding a very fragrant leg of ham. The girl who is late because she stopped to pet all the dogs, smell all the flowers, the girl who lays down on the grass in the freezing Winter, stares at the stars and thinks about how small she is in such a big, wonderful universe.
In short, I’m the girl who gets lost.
What the response from that post made me realise – and, again, I got sidetracked, so back to the point – is that we don’t get lost anymore. Not enough. In our everyday lives we run from point A to point B because we have exactly two minutes to grab that coffee, get to that meeting, make sure our clothes aren’t wrinkled. We have to get on that bus, we have to eat our salad without sauce because of the calories, we have to hit the gym, get good grades on that exam. We have to, we have to.
And of course we do. I’m not going to write one of those (pardon my french) bullshit articles on how you can leave everything behind for a life travelling the world with a backpack, because I’m not keen on cleaning cruise ship toilets just so I can get a place to stay in Norway for three days. But there are things we can do, as human beings, that we’ve stopped doing so long ago as a species – the City Human, or Metroman, as I call it, usually found in high-speed stressful urban hubs – and it’s making us lose something very fundamental to our humanity, which is our ability to be in wonder.
We have to survive. We have to eat, drink, sleep, study, work. Anyone who tells you otherwise will probably not live very long. But when you’re running from one meeting to the other, when you’re hustling for job interviews, it’s okay to stop for a minute. We dive headfirst into fiction in our free time to distance ourselves from a daily life we no longer take pleasure in.
And it makes me very, very sad.
One of the (only) things I am most (/remotely) proud of in myself is my ability to stop, stare and just be in wonder of the world around me. You don’t have to be in the bucolic countryside, or the poetic seafront. You can take in the beauty of architecture, of something as basic as a sunset against a city skyline, a full moon. You have to take back what nature gave you, the unique ability to fall in love with life. The fast-paced lives we all assume as a requirement of survival don’t have to be undertaken in tunnel vision.
It doesn’t solve any problems. It won’t get you a job. It won’t put food on your table, it won’t make your boss or teacher less mad at you for being late. But it will make everything move a little slower. It will put all those enormous, looming and threatening everyday problems into perspective. It will make you feel thankful for being alive, at least for the few seconds you take to stop and think: “Wow, this tea tastes really nice. It feels so warm. I can feel the sun on my neck. It’s so comforting.”
So next time you’re running to get the tube to work, or home, or the doctor’s, or stuck in traffic, just stop. Stare. Listen. Breathe in. Find one, just one, good thing in your surroundings. And like an old man finding water in the desert, take it in, properly and slowly. To your inner self, it’ll feel like a lifetime of catching up, a long conversation with an old friend – in the physical world, all it takes is a minute.
When you’ve managed that, congratulations – you’re human again. And you’re ready to take on the world, one sunset at a time.
I can only hope you never fall out of love with life ever again.