Slow and steady wins the race

Slow and steady wins the race

Brittany Hong/Chronicle

I guess you could say that it started with a song.

Like every summer hit it made its way onto the airwaves in late May and had taken the radios by storm within a few weeks. Naturally, by the time summer officially rolled around, my friends and I were absolutely sick of – yet hooked on – the pop song that had gyrated its way into our hearts.

It was, of course, the one and only “Despacito.” (The original, obviously. Would I truly be a survivor of AP Spanish if I didn’t insist on the authentic version and scoff at Justin Bieber’s atrocious accent? Lo dudo.)

And with each thumping chorus, that earworm not only established itself as my personal anthem for the season but convinced me to indeed live my summer “despacito.”

I slept at least nine hours every day and grew an impossible half inch. I got to sit down and chat with my grandmother in Farsi, something that I usually “never have time for” because it always “takes too long.” I reconnected with old friends and spend hours reminiscing over old memories and making new ones. I went to the movie theater for the first time in months, rode my bike for the first time in years, then stopped keeping track of the date.

One could say that all of this was just a waste of time but the actions that appeared aimless were the ones that felt most meaningful – not the “productive” things I thought I should be doing. And my live-in-the-moment and go-with-the-flow attitude seeped into the more serious tasks I had, making them all that more enjoyable. When I was a counselor at camp, I stopped checking the time and instead fully immersed myself in helping the kids draw and joining them in games of tag. When I was more present, I felt stronger and faster as I ran or swam or biked. My retention of knowledge expanded when I wasn’t focused for studying just for a test. And during the slow, lazy days of sunshine, I felt completely happy for the first time in four years.

Though friends and family members often convince high schoolers that a portion of their summers should be spent being “productive,” after this one, I can’t help thinking that we’ve gotten it all wrong. There’s a certain beauty to being able to slow down once in a while, without any pressing deadlines casting a shadow over our bliss.

But the thing is, now, during the school year, we live in a fast-paced world. It often feels as if to catch a breath in this endless cycle of assignments and tests and practices and rehearsals is to admit defeat. We often lament our packed schedules, but our workloads almost give us bragging rights. How many times have we heard friends from other schools complain about school only to interrupt with a “well, yeah, but at Harvard-Westlake…” or dismissing their frustration entirely? We’ve adapted to survive this whirlwind lifestyle as easily as we’ve begrudgingly learned the lyrics to Top 40 songs; if you listen to the same tune enough times, you either start singing it yourself or get the hell out of there.

When August hit this year, so did the complaints and comments about our “real lives” starting again. But I don’t like to think of the summer as just a departure from our usual way of life, or as our more carefree summer selves as different from who we usually are.

Though “Despacito” has all but disappeared from the airwaves, let us not turn a deaf ear to what it has represented; let’s cling onto and incorporate the tranquility and easiness of summer into our everyday lives. Embracing an attitude less focused on the end result and more on the journey will not only allow us to be more mindful and attentive, but ultimately happier.

Or, I suppose, we can always just hit replay until the message sinks in.

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