It is a Friday night and I am lying on my bedroom floor.
I watch the last strands of golden hour light stumble their way across my plants as I consider what I want to do with my evening.
Serotonin trickles from my head to my toes as I reach for my phone. This better not be my mum.
“Meow” reads the one-worded text from my friend Paul. This means he wants to go out, and the devil on my shoulder wakes up from a nap.
I imagine us tearing off into the night and landing up at an impromptu house party. Adrenaline spikes as we reach the door, and then we are in: traversing a late-night labyrinth lined with beautiful people chatting coyly in dark corners. We emerge into a smoky kitchen that’s been cleared for an aspiring DJ who is guaranteed to play at least one Tame Impala remix, because even though we love to hate it, it’s hard to resist when the lights are flashing and you’re a few wines deep.
We will both find shiny new friends in the bathroom queue who we will swap numbers with but never call. My new friend and I will turn a bedroom into a second dancefloor when the DJ downstairs starts playing experimental Gabba, and I will entertain activities that I never would sober, like guessing each other's star sign or baring my soul beneath the mellow haze of a lava lamp.
Paul will burst into the room, and we will have to leave abruptly after he ensconsened himself in a throuple before realising that the world of free love simply wasn’t for him. We will bolt our way down moon-dappled streets, falling into bed and telling each other how much we missed each other when we were busy working our respective rooms.
Back to a mid-pandemic reality, and I am over at Paul’s, on our 7th repeat of WAP, pizza delivery on the way, wine in the fridge. We laugh and we dance and we fall asleep to Ru Paul tucked up like two pigs in blankets. As I drift off, I wonder why I feel like nights need to end in some big crescendo when I am so content in this moment right now.
Slowing down does not come easily to me. It’s always felt just beyond my grasp, like a vending machine snack that dangles but never drops. I tend to think about this a lot and wonder if people who can slow down for long periods live truly content, together lives.
They probably log out of LinkedIn before they use it as a stalking tool. They can eat half a bag of crisps and leave the rest for later without the packet sending infrared signals from the next room. They remember phrases like “I’m tired”, and always recall where they left their keys. They know when to call it a night, and they definitely don’t entertain questionable life choices, like going on a pre-covid date to the opera with a man from a dating app who had “slight serial killer vibes”, because they thought it might be a “funny story”. (We’re married now – thanks for asking.)
There are periods when I feel like I am whirling through life at the speed of a washing machine on its final spin cycle, intoxicated by the fresh or the new. Then come the occasional flashes of calm and I am finally able to bath in the warm waters of a still mind.
If this year taught me anything, it was a whole new meaning to the word “slow”. There were the unrushed Saturdays of early isolation where we had to stretch one activity out over an entire day. Where wine after wine built up to… a 9pm bedtime and no bad decisions. There were slow-rising sourdoughs, and softly-does-it romances. Walks with no destination because there was no one to see and nowhere to go. But my measured moments can only last so long. After a while, I struggle to match the pace, and the wheels come off once again.
Maybe it’s social media, maybe it’s Disney movie delusions, but the world has conditioned us into thinking that something better is always around the corner. The danger here is that we start treating life like it’s some big rush to the finish line. We blast through weekends, work days, and relationships like we’re trying to level up in a game. Hit the final stage, and you’ll reach the eternal sunshine of a successful existence.
But life is so much more than the highs, the heady nights or the big milestones. It is the slow days, the teary phone calls, and being able to embrace the silence that lingers in the shadows of a Sunday afternoon. It is solo walks in the early morning sun. Two friends falling asleep on the sofa. Six friends dancing in the park on a summer evening. Strolling the long way round. It is lunch under your favourite tree, or leaving your headphones at home so that you can overhear lovely conversations that were never meant for you.
It is simple moments in complicated times.
The moments we miss when we’re speeding up instead of slowing down to admire the view.
(Illustrations by Helena Goddard @helenagoddardillustration)