I made the small, seemingly harmless decision to play music while I worked.
I should have known better. Never play music when you are half asleep and working while on your bed, wrapped in a blanket. Your screen will time out before you open the correct tab.
When I opened Spotify to find something to listen to, I found a playlist I didn’t remember making. It was titled “Rain”, and it contained a single song: “Vienna”, a cover by Gretta Ray.
One thing about me (and I’m not proud of it) is that I’m terribly impatient. I have to pass everyone on the pavement. I structure my day to complete every task efficiently. I always aim for the earliest train. Even during downtime, I feel like I have to be doing something productive. So, when Gretta sang,
Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out,
my laptop lay abandoned and my thoughts ran rampant.
Life is a remarkably complex concept, and this text is not about that. No. Don’t think about it. You will lose yourself in a spiral of fear about the meaning of life. Too many philosophers and theologians have become casualties from obsessing over the answers. Don’t be one of them.
But when the song finished and I switched to another playlist—a “studying music picked just for you” playlist compiled by dear old Spotify—one of my favourite instrumentals, All of Us by SYML, started playing.
The melody gently swept me away.
I’m sitting in a wooden rocking chair in a glass conservatory, flipping through the pages of a photo album with a creaky spine. The sun shines through, warming my face. I gather there is a slight breeze from the twinkle of the wind chime in my garden. A brightly coloured, china cup of tea lays ready for me on its saucer as I stroke old, silky photographs of my sisters and me in what used to be our family home.
“We look so young,” I murmur to myself with a chuckle as I remember having the energy to do cartwheels and back bends.
This version of me is old and calm. She has wrinkles all over and spends her days doing whatever she feels like. Maybe she’s married or maybe she’s happy being independent. She treats herself to ice cream when she visits castles, and she’s learned how to keep vegetable plants alive through trial and error.
Now, suddenly, I’m nostalgic for a future that hasn’t happened yet.
Moving fast feels necessary when I am full to the brim with loud thoughts. A switch flips within me—alarms blare, lights flash—and I find myself in survival mode.
If I don’t overtake this person, I’ve failed.
If I don’t get three things done on my way to the library, I might as well not go.
If I don’t make the early train, my day will be ruined.
But part of me wants to live slowly. To laugh at something funny in a book I chose for fun. To agonise over a line of poetry that no one else will see. To take deep breaths as I cut asparagus stalks from my allotment. To feel and cherish each moment.
I’m glad this realisation dawns upon me now. Future me doesn’t want regret to settle uncomfortably between her shoulders as she flips to the photos of herself in her twenties.
I don’t need to live in a constant state of stress now to be happy later. I can live more slowly and be happy throughout. Regardless of whether or not I’m in survival mode, chances are I will survive.
My heart told my brain this when those two songs stirred it.
Featured image by Sincerely Media.