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From the editor's desk: Putting life before list

October 28, 2011

Sometime about 1990 was the last time I was bored.

It’s actually one of the earliest moments I remember from my life. Sitting in my childhood room, I remember saying to myself, “There’s nothing in here and nothing to do.”

Then life happened.

Action figures, baseball cards and clothes started to flow into that square living space. Then school ushered in returned homework assignments, reports and projects. Art classes created framed drawings, and basketball teams merited participation trophies.

Once I started driving, voting and working, the world realized my existence and the mail started to pile up.
All of these trinkets and papers might as well just be lumped into a simple word — “things.”

Many of the “things” took time to gather.

Time started to pass.

Gradually — no, suddenly — 27 years are classified as the past.

I celebrated a birthday Thursday, and today I ponder how I’ve reached the present. The more years I start to add to my age, the more everything blurs.

Fitting, perhaps? Blur describes our world.

Does anyone truly hit a snooze button anymore? These days I find I get up before I hear my alarm blare.
When’s the last time you breathed the morning air? Any air? I think haste has killed my sense of smell.
What did that sandwich you had for lunch taste like? Was the sky completely clear this morning, or were there clouds? And do you ever feel the textures of the hands you shake during your day at work or out in the community?

These questions may seem random, but I deem them a worthy survey to determine how quickly we move through our days and how much we really experience and enjoy our lives. I think getting things done often trumps enjoying what we get.

Many days, I’d have to say I don’t know the answers to the above questions. My blank answers mean I need to do something…slow down.

Slow.

Down.

Signs everywhere point toward a slower speed.

They started when I was a teenager. When I’d mow the yard or paint a section of my grandfather’s old house, dad would tell me to take my time and do it right.

Just last month, a Newton police officer told me to slow down. The reminder came in the form of a speeding ticket I received on 6th Street.

I agree that slowing down inhibits progress on that to-do list I make every day. Privately, I’ve long been obsessed with putting checkmarks beside items on the list, and the ticking of an internal clock for marking those checks occasionally drowns out all else.

Still, I know good things come from slowing down, even just a notch. Yet, I don’t do it. The moment I do, the list begins to grow again. Checkmarks stop, but time and the list do not.

My list doesn’t compare in length to the lists of many.

A former colleague and good friend of mine is a single parent who balances fatherhood, school and work.

There are people among us in Catawba County who volunteer as many free hours each week as they work for a paycheck. Some volunteer at a long list of organizations, therefore staying incredibly busy, because they don’t have a job at all due to unemployment or retirement.

Those people still cross items off their to-do lists, and they make ends meet.

I can slow down and take care of obligations, too.

Today, I’d like to remind myself — and suggest to the world — that sometimes intentions, more than speed, affect productivity.

If I’m lucky, I’ll spend at least 27 more years in this world. I’d like to remember the people I’ve met and how they’ve impacted my life. I’d relish the ability to recall details from conversations with friends.
I’d like for everything I experience to create a list of “things” that ultimately shows me what a good life it’s been.

Matthew Tessnear is the editor of and a columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the Friday edition of The O-N-E.

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