Learning to go slow

My approach to life is fast. It always has been. The faster I can do things, the more I can get done. I live for efficiency, thrive on multi-tasking. Nothing is ever enough: I’m always setting new benchmarks, always raising the bar.

So it made sense that, right at the beginning of my PhD, while all my peers were focusing on the academic mountain ahead, I was busy focusing on the next challenge. I had decided to buy a horse, and was busy transporting her from London to Sheffield, finding somewhere to keep her despite having not a single horsey friend in a hundred mile radius, book-ending my days with trips to the stables and proceeding to turn her into an elite competition winner. I did all those things. I also completed my PhD within three years. Because, as I said, I go fast.

It also made sense that I chose to buy a Thoroughbred, best known for their use in horse-racing. We didn’t race, but oh did we gallop. And we jumped so high. We won event after event. My new Sheffield-based horsey friends rightly referred to her as the “wonder-horse”.
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More importantly, at the end of any hard day at work, I could always rely on her to dance with excitement as we rode out into the countryside. To make me laugh as she bounced on the spot, begging to run. To fly down the field so fast that the wind whipped the tears right out of my eyes.

But now, nine years later, my wonder-horse is growing old. While she is still happy to take me out at the end of a hard day, to help me clear my mind, no longer does she bounce with excitement. And while she still enjoys a gentle canter down the field, her legs are sometimes stiff, and hills can take their toll. So we must take things more slowly now, give her old body time to warm up and her old lungs time to fill. Our rides take longer, we spend more time walking. Together, we meander through the beautiful Derbyshire countryside and she gives me time to breathe it all in.
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A slow horse can be frustrating for a fast rider. But my horse isn’t slow – she is old. And as she gently succumbs to age, she is teaching me that sometimes it is good to go slow. To have no option but to forget about time. To relax and be patient, and stop worrying about what comes next. To relive precious memories and be thankful for the things you have.

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