Dear Diary,

I was sixteen and in the best shape of my life when my basketball coach nonchalantly said, “You’d be so much faster if you just lost 20 pounds.” What should you never, ever say to a sixteen-year-old girl? Those 11 words.

Let’s be clear: I was a 3-sport athlete when I was sixteen. I was either in practice, attending open gym, shooting free throws at home, or prepping for a game of volleyball, basketball, or softball nearly every day of my high school life. If I’d lost sixteen pounds, I would have floated away in a strong breeze. 

The proof? That’s me on the far left in the long-sleeved pink shirt and jean shorts, holding my precious Diet Coke. That’s the girl who was told by her basketball coach to lose 20 pounds so she’d be speedier. The only thing about me that carried extra weight was my Aqua Net-styled, 80s hair.

His words, of course, sent me into an I’m-not-fast-enough-or-good-enough tailspin that I thought calories (or lack thereof) would cure. For the next decade, I tried to binge and purge myself into an existence where I might someday be good enough, pretty enough, fast enough. And remember, speed was the ultimate goal. Never mind that I could hit 3-pointers consistently. That wasn’t enough. He wanted me fast, too. (Side note: Having an eating disorder doesn’t make you any faster. It just makes you sad and weak.)

I’ve never really moved quickly. Not in any aspect of my life. My former best friend and professional-level shopper used to drag me to the mall with her whenever she could. We’d drop our kids at preschool and shop until we picked them up for lunch. “Make tracks!” she’d yell at me while I jogged ten paces behind her, never quite speedy enough to keep up. “We only have three hours!” But I wanted to look in the windows and watch the people and maybe even grab an Orange Julius. I was never interested in making tracks.

One of my earliest jobs was in software sales. I traveled all over the nation, often accompanied by my larger-than-life boss. I distinctly remember traveling with him three days before Christmas, and I was already cranky about leaving home when I wanted to be wrapping presents and baking cookies. As we were heading back to Indiana, a weather delay meant catching our connecting flight was going to be touch-and-go. When the first plane landed, my boss grabbed his carry-on and sprinted through the airport. “Sorry to leave you, Kat, but I can’t miss my kids’ Christmas concert!” he yelled as he ran. He made the connecting flight. I didn’t.

Life with four young kids doesn’t necessarily lend itself to moving quickly, either. We never arrived anywhere on time. Even if I started prepping two hours early, inevitably, someone would skin a knee or throw up on a dress shirt or need to poop while we were loading the car. As my kids grew, they used to compete with each other in everything—including foot races. When Sam was a teenager, he challenged me to a race, claiming that he could even beat me if he ran backwards. He was right. When they all became campers and hikers, they’d joke that they should take me along with them in case of a bear attack. “We only need to be faster than one other person,” they’d laugh. “Let’s take Mom.”

When I ran my one and only marathon, the water table volunteers were closing up shop before I jogged by. “Wait!” I’d yell. “I’m thirsty! Don’t go yet!” Many of the bands and entertainers along the way were packing up their instruments by the time I reached them. But I still got to experience the changing leaves on a beautiful November day in Indiana. I got to read all the shirts of the people who passed me. I crossed the finish line when I was good and ready. Approximately 0.05% of the US population has completed a full marathon. No matter my finish time, I’m still one of them.

Even my career trajectory was slow. Of course, I’d taken a few years off and spent a few more working part-time to raise my kids, but for someone who, as a competitive kid, always thought she wanted to sit at the head of the board room table, I didn’t make great efforts to climb that corporate ladder. I should have known that would be a failure from the beginning—I’ve always been afraid of heights. And quite honestly, I’ve never had the “fire in my belly” that a colleague claimed I needed to have to move quickly up the ranks. I have fires in my belly for lots of things, but marketing isn’t one of them.

When I first accompanied Sam to a casino, he tried to teach me how the blackjack tables work. But everything moved so quickly, it just made me anxious. I couldn’t count quickly enough, couldn’t make a split-second decision. Instead, I sweated. The same thing happened the other night at our community euchre round-robin. Some of the tables were friendly and fun; others were more fast-paced. When the cards move so quickly, I sometimes get lost in the numbers. I’m a girl who likes to play a hand all the way out. Show me one trump at a time, and I’m a great partner. Throw four down at once, and I start to lose my bearings. (Especially when I’m drinking a little wine.)

We live in a culture that’s obsessed with speed and quick wins and long hours. That hustle culture has never appealed to me. I’m more in line with the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race culture. I like to savor the words I write, to take time to think about the perfect tagline, to edit and re-edit until things look and feel just so. Even my star sign supports who I am. Pisces are known to be empathetic, mystical, pleasure-seeking, romantic, and imaginative. They are not speedy.

I used to think my lack of speed was a deficit (thanks to an adult male who felt the need to comment on my teenage body), but now I see my pace as an attribute. Slow living means I get to experience every moment. That’s pure magic for a writer.

When I walk, I notice the birds and flowers. When I cook, I spend time smelling the herbs and feeling the textures of the vegetables. (I do not, however, spend time squishing my fingers through ground beef. Raw ground beef is just gross.) When I talk with a friend, I appreciate a slow and meaningful conversation with lots of give and take. And when I write, I often find myself gazing out the window to gather my thoughts.

Slow and steady might win the race, but I really don’t want to be racing at all.

I’d rather be living.

Love,

Katrina

P.S. I ordered this shirt on Saturday. I can’t wait until it gets here! (But if it needs to take its time, that’s okay, too.)

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