How a Year of Stillness Helped Me Redefine My Goals

How a Year of Stillness Helped Me Redefine My Goals

In a world full of hustle culture, Kaitlyn McQuin begs you to be still

I have a tendency to move quickly. Not in relationships. Oh, no, no, no. In relationships, I move like a sloth. But in every other area of my life? It’s pedal to the metal, baby. We’re flying. 

I remember as a child witnessing how quickly my mother did everything. I could ask her for a peanut butter sandwich, and within seconds, it was handed to me, almost as if by magic. Effortless. She didn’t even break a sweat. My mother was a busy woman—still is to this day—and her ability to get it all done and still have time to paint her nails while catching up on her favorite shows still blows my mind. 

From a very young age, I equated moving quickly with being successful. If you could complete a task quickly, efficiently, and correctly, then you won. You were top tier. You were successful and smart and a woman on the go. It’s all I wanted to be. 

I’m twenty-nine now, and I realize my mother, though a fast-paced gal, was stretched thin. The reason she moved so quickly was because she had so much to do, and if she slowed down for even a moment, she might lose momentum. Over the years, I’ve adopted the mindset of ‘the quicker, the better’ and ‘can’t stop, won’t stop’, but not because I’m balancing single parenthood with a job, all while going back to school like my mother was.

I’ve adopted these mindsets, because I don’t know how to exist in stillness. Or I didn’t, rather, until this past year when we were all collectively forced to.

Society prides itself on constantly being in motion. We embrace—and expect—hustle culture, chasing the next big break, and sleeping for four hours each night. Our glamourization of stretching ourselves thin is why the minimum for a standard workweek is forty hours, why taking lunch breaks is seen as slacking off, and why we scoff at napping or just taking a day to lounge on the couch, eat pizza, and watch television. Our propensity as a culture to keep going and going and going is also the reason why we’re burnt out, why our relationships suffer, and why we lose sight of who we are, which oftentimes leads to overthinking and crises that keep us awake at all hours of the night as soon as our heads hit the pillow. How can we possibly know who we are if we don’t allot even five minutes to sit in stillness?

Sometimes the best thing you can give yourself is time inside away from all the noise

Without rest, we’re setting ourselves up for burnout. Without rest, we won’t have the energy to move forward when it’s time to do so. Without rest, we don’t have time to check in with ourselves and see how we’re doing. The pandemic taught me that sometimes the best thing you can give yourself is time inside away from all of the noise, and sometimes your day’s greatest victory is getting out of bed. Maybe the pandemic has taught you the same. 

The forced stillness from this past year has not only helped me reshape the way I view my current progress and shape my self-worth, but it’s shone a light on past experiences of mine when I thought I was surely failing or wasting time. The final few months of my breakup in 2018—when I was unemployed and spent the majority of my time alone—weren’t wasted moments of my life like I once thought, but moments of rest to prepare me for what came next. And what came next for me was a brand-new life back in my home state where I am currently living and thriving today. I needed that energy I garnered in my stillness to get me here. 

As the world begins to reopen, I hope you remember that you don’t have to move at the speed of light or make a peanut butter sandwich in five seconds flat to be a supermom. For all I know, my mother had them preset in the pantry. As the world reopens, I hope you remember that hustle culture is toxic and needs to be demolished, and striving for a rest-free life is unrealistic, depressing, and not at all how we’re meant to live. I hope you remember that, even when everyone else seems to be moving forward and chasing the next big thing and doing this and doing that, it’s okay for you not to. It’s okay to not have a next big thing, and it’s okay to take some time before charging towards it full steam ahead when you do. 

Above all, I hope you remember that the quiet moments aren’t moments of failure, but moments where you’re regaining your energy for what comes next. 

And there’s always something coming next… but we don’t need to rush to get there. We can take our time.

The quiet moments aren’t moments of failure, but moments where you’re regaining your energy for what comes next

Instead, we can live in the moment and enjoy our lives for where they are now. We can exist in the in-between and enjoy ourselves while we’re here. What’s the rush? There’s no timeframe in achieving our goals. They’re ever evolving and ever-changing. But there is a timeframe to a life well spent and to our existence as a whole. And, I don’t know about you, but I’d like to live my life while I’m still in it. 

I want to be here, and I want to be here now, and I can’t do that when I refuse to sit still for a single second and just look around me and be okay with what’s here. You can’t either. And, I’m lucky that my ‘here’ is a pretty remarkable place to be. So, I’ll rest here for now. You can rest, too. 

Take a breather. Take it slow. And take time today to make a peanut butter sandwich.

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