Slowing Down

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That we lead a busy, fast-paced life is conventional wisdom, but where, exactly, does all the hustle and bustle get us? Shailaja Venkatsubramanyan has this Perspective.

Getting more done with few missteps has been the underlying mantra of my life. Only the nature of how that manifested changed as life went by. As a student in Bombay, my train commute was worked out to the last detail. As a college professor, if I was caught up with grading and my research projects were chugging along, I felt a sense of calm. As a mom, when I was caught up with laundry, food was prepped, and I was on top of my kids’ homework, I felt accomplished. I worked on streamlining my life. If I did slip-up in any way - ordered more than an occasional takeout dinner, or missed a yoga class, I felt like my life was out of control.

Then, in a momentary lapse of judgment, I signed up for a calligraphy class. The teacher was an elderly woman with a lovely smile. As she introduced the topic, I shifted uncomfortably as I was waiting to get into action. When the teacher came around to check our work, she said kindly, “You are going too fast.”

Those simple words had a profound impact, as if I was being asked to reexamine my approach to life. Maybe, some things are done better slower or not at all? Maybe, it is ok to let a plant or two die because I forgot to water them? Maybe, I don’t have to read every book I bought? Maybe, just maybe, when my life is over, I will leave this world without checking off everything on my to-do list?

Thanks to the calligraphy teacher’s simple instruction, slowing down became front and center in my thoughts. The next morning, as I rushed my kids out of bed to get to school on time and watched my husband shove breakfast into his mouth the irony was not lost on me.


With a Perspective, I’m Shailaja Venkatsubramanyan.

Shailaja Venkatsubramanyan has taught information systems at San Jose State and lives in Los Gatos.