Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
I’ve wanted to live a slow lane story in a fast-paced world since 1986 when I saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. My 16-year-old self already felt rushed. Running from school to extracurricular activities and then to work left me little opportunity to notice much of anything. While my schedule taught time management skills, it left me exhausted and stressed.
Slowing down seemed impossible. My herd (friends, classmates, and fellow strapped-for-time teenagers) worked to finish high school and migrate to the next steps. Together we’d enter college, find jobs, get married, and have babies.
The class of 1987, my graduating class, recently held its 30-year reunion. Thirty years. Three decades ago I donned my cap and gown and held my place in line as hundreds of us optimistically began to make our mark on the world.
Some of us soared. Some of us crashed and burned. Some of us still haven’t quite figured out what we’d like to be when we grow up. I fit the latter two categories.
As hundreds and thousands of bright-eyed, enthusiastic, world-changing young adults graduate this season, I can’t help but think about a guy I met in Georgia. His name was Jason and he taught me once again that Ferris Bueller had it right. Life still moves pretty fast and if you’re not careful, if you’re not intentional, if you don’t stop once in a while, you will miss it.
Back in April our RV kitchen sink started leaking and in a tiny town in Georgia service options were limited. We got lucky when Jason walked into our rig and plopped himself on the floor. A third generation plumber, he said he’d spent most of his life on the floors of kitchens and bathrooms. He talked the entire time he worked. I didn’t even mind.
Jason was fairly new to his small town life. For three decades he had owned his own business in one of Florida’s big cities. With a fleet of trucks, lots of employees, and plenty of customers, Jason and his family lived comfortably, maybe even extravagantly. Except this hard-working father and business owner rarely saw his family. His mental, physical, and emotional health suffered. A near-death experience–a heart attack–opened his eyes to the life he’d created.
Jason could no longer reside in the fast lane.
Within a month’s time Jason sold his business and the family home. Side by side with his wife, this father of three packed up the best parts of his life and drove a moving truck to a small town in Georgia to begin a slow-lane story in a fast-paced world. It took several months for everyone to adjust to this new reality, but the benefit of this brave choice was evident.
Jason’s health was restored. The weight of the previous lifestyle melted away. Down 60 pounds, Jason regained mobility in a way he’d not had since high school. His emotional and mental health rebounded with a newfound contentment and peaceful presence. A smile was never far from his face.
He shared how the adjustment had reinstated his place in the family; his relationships with his children and wife were stronger now than they’d ever been. Life was good.
“Was there anything bad about this big change?” The story sounded too good. With his head under the sink, I heard a faint, “Yes.”
The people left behind in that big Florida city, people who loved them, felt abandoned. In the weeks following the escape to a simplified life, pleading phone calls happened regularly. Friends and family had a difficult time understanding why such a drastic decision was made.
“So what happened?” I was desperate to know. Surely there was a happy ending. Jason’s easy smile disappeared. “You know, they wanted us to come back. They didn’t agree with us so they just sort of stopped calling.” Wow.
Wrapping up his work, Jason emerged from the cabinet, sat up and said, “But, my daughter, she’s 15, and the other day she told me how glad she is that we moved here.” The smile returned to Jason’s face and he shrugged as if to say it was all worth it.
I understood completely. When Daniel and I jumped into our RV to travel full-time, we faced similar challenges. And, our decision was made for similar reasons, too.
As much as we love the Hoosier state, Daniel’s business and my busyness take on an unhealthy importance and pace, eliminating any margin or space to rest, whenever we land there. For us, proximity prevents proper perspective.
In a recent podcast called Neighbor Me Daniel explained that he’s learned to right-size his work challenges only by putting physical distance between himself and his business difficulties. “It’s amazing that the same problems that look large when I’m in Indiana get smaller and smaller as I drive away.” Same problems. Different perspective. Better problem-solver.
Just like Jason, Daniel loses weight–physically, but also emotionally and mentally–as he sheds the heaviness of stress and anxiety far away from the fast-paced big city. Side by side with his wife, Daniel happily chooses to cruise in the slow lane of life.
I believe our slow lane story was destined. On a hot summer night in August 1992, in the beginning of that awkward “getting to know you” phase of dating, Daniel asked me a question that set the stage for years of like-mindedness to come.
“Hey, do you like Ferris Bueller?” Oh, yeah.