“I DON’T know how to slow down anymore!” My Hong Kongese friend said this to me with a big sigh. “Why am I always running?” She related to me a time when she stopped running and asked herself this question. “I’m not late, and I still have plenty of time.” So, she started pacing her steps, walking slowly, and then started to run again.
Hong Kong is one of the busiest places in Asia. Everybody seems to be running, and one can easily go along the flow especially during rush hours. That’s why many of our Hong Kongese friends would go to another country for rest and recharging.
My husband and I used to frequent Hong Kong because of work. Our schedule was always full, and we would find ourselves hopping from one train to another. I’m a slow walker. That’s why I had to make sure I have the most comfortable shoes whenever we travel because I didn’t want to be left behind in the rush or get caught in-between the railway train doors again. During our last trip, in a busy mall, I saw big posters with bold letters saying, “There’s no pause in life.” and with cartoonish drawings of people rushing to shop. If you’re not careful, you will feel guilty if you’re not in a rush like them.
People in highly wired countries like Hong Kong, where everything is so efficient and convenient, are supposed to have more free time. Supposed but not true. They pay for this convenience and it’s not cheap, so they must work harder. “Time is gold.” One friend said, “We cannot afford to waste it.”
Although the Philippines is still many years away from becoming like Hong Kong in terms of infrastructure, we are already becoming more acquainted with that kind of rush in cyberspace especially when online classes and work-from-home schemes were forced upon us because of the pandemic. We hop from one link to another that our brain can no longer catch up with our swiping thumb or scrolling finger.
Working or studying from home is supposed to be more convenient than travelling to the workplace or to school. Ironically, I am more drained teaching in cyberspace than in the real classroom. So are my daughters who are in the university online, and my son who works remotely for international clients. It seems like when things are more efficient, the expectation is also high. And sometimes, it is also us who, unconsciously, beat ourselves to keep up, or even add up to our load. Because it seems convenient, we multi-task, and try to fill up our remaining free time with more work.
Even when a person is not working or studying, like a stay-at-home mom or a retired dad, he or she can also be dragged into the rush in cyberspace. The seeming need to be updated with the news and what’s trending is real. There’s so much information for everyone in cyberspace and we don’t want to be left behind. So, at the end of the day, instead of being filled up, we feel drained and sometimes dissatisfied because of how social media created more needs inside us. If we are not careful, we would not know anymore when to pause and slow down.
This week, we experience longer power interruptions, and when it happens, we usually go out in the porch as a family and do something together. We learned not to grumble anymore over not having to do our online jobs or submit assignments on time. We knew that it’s something beyond our control, and so we just used the time to slow down away from cyberspace. We paint, we garden, or we just sit and relax. Seems like a wasted time but it’s not! It’s a needed time away from the rush.
“I hate it when the power comes back after a long brown out. The notifications on my phone are overwhelming!”, said my daughter one time. I guess we have the choice to be overwhelmed or not, and we must learn how. There’s no going back to what it used to be. This is the new normal, and we need to brace ourselves, keeping in mind that our mental health is as important as our physical health.
A peaceful mind heals the body.
– Proverbs 14:50a
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