When I was eighteen my roommate convinced me to go to a random meditation session in New York City. 🧘🏼♀️
She’d found a flyer somewhere that sounded all New Age and spiritual. ☮️Like something you’d expect from Los Angeles. Back then meditation was not as "mainstream" and the way the event was advertised sounded a bit... eccentric. Also I'd never done anything like it before. So I was skeptical.
But when you’re eighteen you have no excuse not to try new things. That’s what that age is for, right? So I agreed to accompany her and we showed up to this room lit up with candles. 🕯
We sat on the cushions laid out for us and listened to the grown-ups—we were the youngest people there—share their stories. About why there were here. And soon it became very clear why.
Everyone was suffering. It was 2008 and people were getting laid off left and right. No one knew what to do next. The rug had been slipped out from under them. Bye bye job security. Bye bye benefits. 😔
I was a freshman in college and yet to experience a “real” full-time job. Too young and naive to think about things like job security when I hadn’t even decided on a major. So all these adults talking about how crazy and uncertain the world is… well, it was scary. 😱
We were told that if we went to college and graduated we'd be able to find a job. The American economy would be there for us. We'd live the dream like previous generations. A house, a family, a nice car... yeah.
And if hearing about how all that was taken away from people weren't scary enough, what I heard next really would influence me over the next decade.
The Young and the Restless
One woman in the group spoke up and changed the narrative entirely. You see, she had cancer. She was going to operate next week and the chances of success? 50/50.
She was only 30. She stressed the importance of living life to the fullest. Because you never know when it’s going to end.
We’re all familiar with this concept right? Life is short… aka YOLO.
Hearing this person's story had such an effect on me that for the next 10 years of my life I lived with this idea that I had to do everything all at once. You never know when you’re gonna die. So… rush, rush, rush. 🏃🏾♂️
It wasn’t hard to do. I was in New York. If you’ve ever been there you know the city ain’t for slowpokes.
Everything. Must. Be. Done. FAST.
Walk fast. Climb up the corporate ladder fast. Become successful fast. Keep up with the trends. Hell, you even gotta speak fast 'cause ain’t nobody got the time for you to be wastin’.
I need to know exactly what you want on your bagel right now, I got 10 customers lined up behind you, if you don’t know if you want salami or turkey get outta my fuckin' way! Nobody got time for that shit.
I mean… no wonder tourists think New Yorkers are rude. 😅
I’ve subscribed to this rapid-pace lifestyle for over a decade myself.
You just cannot be stopping on the sidewalk in front of me. I’m gonna bump into you. If you’re lost look up Google Maps while you’re standing on the side of the road, not smack in the middle.
Do NOT block the doors to the train as they’re about to close. Don’t you know the MTA sucks? You hold up the train, you’re responsible for hundreds of people being late to work. Ya really wanna be that person?
My goodness. Everyday is a struggle in New York. And it’s the little things. But they have a way of adding up and getting to you. Contributing to your stress levels. Your mental health. 🤕
And the system being what it is in the U.S. oftentimes the people who need it the most can’t afford health insurance much less a therapist… This creates a city that is full of unhealthy people—both physically and mentally.
Studies have shown there are direct links between population density, urban design, and stress levels. In fact, NYC is the most stressed-out city in the U.S. followed by Detroit and Los Angeles.
You see it whenever you step out onto the streets. From the homeless people yelling at you incoherently to the person sitting on the train talking loudly to themself... to that one person yelling on the phone at someone for everyone to hear and the people starting a fight over something so mundane as a seat on the train.
(Sadly there have been many instances of physical fights and verbal arguments breaking out over train seats in the city. See here, here, and here... If you see someone agitated on the train, just yield. It's not worth it.)
After living life at this “mad rush” pace for over a decade I’ve come to a profound realization...
Rushing is overrated. 😆
Discovering A New Way to Be in Vancouver
Nothing could’ve driven home this point for me better than a recent visit to another city, Vancouver. 🇨🇦
I was blown away by how calm and courteous people were. Not in a laid-back LA way where things take forever... but more in a relaxed manner where people seemed to value treating each other well and behaving decently in public spaces.
I’m not trying to paint it as a perfect city. After all there’s a transit strike happening right now and things aren’t exactly all that tranquil. 🚎
Still, Vancouver was nothing like New York. People actually… waited for other people to pass them on public transportation and on the street. No one rushed to get inside the train or bus. There was a general sense that if you did behave that way, people would consider you… rude.
In New York, if you’re not rushing you’re being rude. (‘cause you’re holding up people’s precious time.) 🤯And where I am right now in Mexico City, if you don't push and shove, you can forget about getting on that train. 🤷🏻♀️
Another thing that blew my mind in Vancouver?
People actually took the time to say thank you to bus drivers as they got off. I watched with amazement as person after person got off the bus at the back and yelled "Thank you!" so the driver in the front could hear it. 🤯🤯🤯
It’s such a small thing. But for me it was a radical shift.
In Vancouver, people seemed to um, actually consider other people. To carve that little time out to show the other person some appreciation. And help if they needed it.
I can’t tell you how many times people stopped on the street to help me when I never even asked them to do so. From helping to adjust my bike seat to offering to take a photo in a touristy spot to letting me know that the line over there is shorter at the supermarket.
Slow down. Look around you. Does anyone need your help? Offer it.
This to me seemed like a recipe for healthier living—both for yourself and for the people around you.
A Mad Dash Towards… Death? ☠️
The tech industry is like New York. You need to always be getting somewhere. And fast. Become the next unicorn. 🦄 Become the next Uber. Sell your company to the big guns. Cash in. Become a millionaire by 30 and get on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.
But for what?
No seriously—what is the purpose of all this rushing? 🧐
Where are we all trying to get to? Every single one of us is headed toward the same destination in life. Death. You rush to live your life to get closer to death?
As a culture—especially in American culture—we have this idea that you need to achieve success early. If you don’t have it by 30 you’re a failure. Over 50? Forget about it.
Why do we think life is about getting somewhere? After all the only life you’re actually guaranteed is the one you have today. That's it. So if we're constantly rushing towards tomorrow, are we living our lives today? 😳
Taking the time to enjoy each day doesn't hurt us. It can only enhance the quality of our lives. And create a better future for us if we're lucky enough to get it. 🙏🏿
When we rush we tend to forget about all that. We miss things that are right in front of our noses. 👃🏼 We don’t take time out of our lives to examine what’s really important. We don't take care of our mental health, which then causes all those stress-induced physical symptoms and diseases. 🤒
We don’t all have to be “laid-back” all the time. Sitting around doing nothing. It’s great to be productive. Just as long as we’re not rushing to be somewhere only to end up asking ourselves why. 😦