Slow down, smell the roses- 10 years in the making

Ten years ago, in 2010, I went to the top 20 graduate school in the US. It was the peak of my life. I stood on that peak looking at other peaks, filled with ambitions. I traveled extensively until 2013; I crossed 3 continents covering half the globe. I’ve been around as people said.

Then the “grand tour” was over. I returned to my homeland, hard landing.

It stirred up dust so thick and high, I couldn’t see where I came from and where I’m headed.

I was living a fast pace and was unhappy with my present.

While many of my friends worked at big corporates and strived in their careers, I looked at them in envy, but it wasn’t the life that I wanted. I denied what I yearned for and judged myself; feeling small, inferior, and a failure. It took almost 10 years for the dust to finally settle down. And for me to realise that I had been resisting the hard landing of coming back, and the dissatisfaction of my 2 jobs stemming from my life values.

It finally occurred to me that after my extensive travels, and my childhood and adolescence leading up to that, I’ve been exposed to multicultures, and a much broader life experience than most people my age in Taiwan. That’s why my values seem to be out of place and different from mainstream. I think like a 40-50 year-old when I was 30.

A turning point came when I had my first child and became a stay-home-mother. Life as I knew it was over. My life turned up-side-down in chaos, challenges and uncertainties. I was overwhelmed, crushed, and hit rock bottom. I fell into depression. I lost faith in my marriage and doubted my life. But in the midst of darkness, I saw a dim light shining through the cracks of life. I turned towards personal development and spiritual studies to find peace and resilience.

I slowed down, and tried to live in the present and savor the moments of rearing my child. The time that once crawled when my child was an infant, now spins faster and faster. It reminds me to be more aware and mindful of the precious time spent with my child. I don’t want to miss a thing, and am grateful to have the opportunity for being a stay-home-mom.

My journey of self healing, and growing up again with my child happened hand-in-hand. My child is a God-sent gift to show me the values of slow living, but it took my 4 years to appreciate. It’s my reawakening (il risveglio). A chance to turn-over-a-new-leaf, to change my ways of a fast-paced, stress-filled life, constantly striving for success defined by the society.

During these 4 years of full-time mom life, although there seems to be no career highlights or achievements, I finally had the chance to learn floral arrangement that I had longed for, and also practiced yoga regularly. Yoga and floral have bonded my interactions and relationship with my child. They brought balance, beauty and bliss to our daily lives.

Maybe it would be great to work at Google, or a world-class arts institution, but this is what makes me happy and grounded. This is what’s right for me. Years of self doubt and sense of failure have faded as the dusts settled. It allowed me to see how far I’ve come.

10 years ago, I stood on the peak and I yearned to climb and conquer another peak. Over time I kept stumbling on the journey and couldn’t find my way at all. I lost my goals, my morale and felt disappointed with myself. Now, I found a plain that I enjoy cultivating, and realised, I don’t need to conquer another peak to be happy, to feel fulfilled. I will plant flowers and seeds in my plain and grow my garden with patience, passion and love, just like the way I raise and nurture my child.

Thank you.

*Epilogue: Coincidentally, I came across a post on Voltaire’s “Candide” just after I edited this article. I discovered the resemblance and the words “cultivate” and “garden” occurred in both works. I studied “Candide” in English literature class in 2003, it was only a task for me then. 17 years later, I resonate with Voltaire. Life has come full circle.


Author/ Syenny Lee

A cultural program consultant and lecturer at WIND cultural events organization. She was educated and worked in Taiwan, Australia, Japan, US, Italy, UK and has twenty-six years of travel experience in over 74 cities. She holds a dual degree in MAM-GIOCA (Masters of Arts Management- Graduate degree in Innovations and Organization of Culture and the Arts) from Heinz School of Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University and the School of Economics, University of Bologna.

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