The world feels fast: fast food, high-speed trains, supersonic planes. Tech companies move fast and break things. People want things now, resulting in instant Jell-O, instant messaging and Instant Pot.
I’m slow. I read slowly, write slowly, learn slowly. I’m thorough; detail-oriented.
This fault-line between my slow-motion style and the world’s fast-motion expectations sometimes leaves me feeling deficient, concerned I lack a societally-valued trait.
My discomfort intensifies when I try to learn something new. I plod through my learning while images of Neo from The Matrix appear, skills and knowledge insta-loaded into his memory.
I’ve wrestled with this aspect of my personality, being self-critical when I take too long to learn something, aching to speed things up. Expecting something other than what is.
I took up partner dancing at 41 and met a woman who started dancing after I did. She leap-frogged me with her dance skills, and I was frustrated. A fellow dancer told me, “it isn’t the years spent dancing, it’s the hours on the dance floor.” It was a valid point; I was dancing once a week; she was out at least five nights. If I’d danced more, I likely would have gotten better more quickly; but I also suspect she was more gifted and got aspects of dance it took me years to get. It’s one thing to learn dance moves; it’s another thing to actually learn to dance.
After 20-years of dancing I concluded, yes, I put in less floor-time than certain other dancers, and in dance, I’m a slow learner. It was actually a relief to acknowledge it; accept it.
I took up meditating four years ago using the Headspace app. After a year of listening to 20-minute guided meditations 3 to 4 days a week, I switched to an unguided meditation; the guiding voice came in only at the beginning and end. The shock of not having a guide caught me up short. My first thought was, “omg, I still don’t know how to meditate. I can’t do this without a guide. I’m so slow at learning this.”
Initially I was dismayed. Then I remembered my conclusion that I was a slow learner in dance. “Maybe,” I thought, “maybe I’m a slow learner in this, too.”
With that, I decided to be ok with my meditation progress. I saw my year of guided meditations as a year of meditating apprenticeship. It felt right; it was where I needed to be. It was how I needed to do it.
I like learning new things. It’s been good to have dance and meditation to reference when I start worrying I’m not learning something fast enough; they remind me that I learn how I learn. At my pace. It’s a welcome countervailing voice to my inner critic.