On The Nature Of Pace

At the start of this year I wanted to process what had been a very fraught and traumatic 2022 for me. At the recommendation of many others, I used YearCompass as the prompts to pull apart last year and figure out what I needed directionally for 2023.

The year 2022, especially the final six months, was traumatizing for me. I’ve wrote a lot of “people died” and “new job” in the YearCompass form boxes — the best I could manage was four words total out of entire experience.

What happened? Some things I’m not ready to talk about. Some things I can hint at — I changed jobs and triggered a series of bad events at my former employer. And some things most of you know — a Sunday morning phone call to inform me they’d found my mother dead in her house. I’ve dubbed my condition as “three traumas in a trenchcoat.”

The more I picked at last year and thought about what I wanted this year, the more three words from soccer came to mind: pace, stamina, and endurance.

Pace is the speed you play the game at. Playing at a fast pace is beneficial for a soccer team that relies on pressing and attacking play styles.

Stamina is your ability to go all-out for a sustained period. The more stamina you have, the more field you can cover, faster, and with fewer mental mistakes.

Endurance is how long you can sustain the pace given stamina. It is critical to have the endurance to play a full 90 minutes at the speed of the game. Stamina and pace drain your energy, making you tired, slow, and sometimes unable to continue. (Thus why teams with high endurance are playing on a different level in the 90th minute than the other, worn down team can.)

It dawned on me: I have stamina and endurance, but not as much endurance as I once had. Thus, I’ve felt tired all the time.

I need to find a new pace.

I’ve been pushing myself hard the last few months as I’ve tried to navigate through these “three traumas in a trenchcoat.” I can’t stop to rest because then the traumas will catch up.

But I can’t keep this pace, not with this emotional load from the traumas. I’m constantly fighting burnout.

Without finding pace, I’m not going to find peace.

I need to come to terms with slowing down. (You know what’s hard for someone with ADHD? Slowing down. It’s asking an always-on brain, demanding constant input and stimulation, to shut off.)

I have no idea how to find a new pace or how to slow down. But I need to. I need to find a sustainable level where I can do what I do best without doing everything.

That means saying no. That means accepting idleness as a good thing in moderation.

It means coming to new terms with my rampant ADHD — reassessing the masks I use to hide how disordered I really am, asking whether I still need them. I have gotten here with all my hard-fought coping mechanisms; will what’s gotten me here be enough to take me the rest of the way?

It means learning to delegate correctly. Too often I’ve equated “servant leadership” with “martyr leadership” — that is, I overwork myself and burn out when I should have asked for help.

And it means setting and enforcing boundaries. Without boundaries, my life blurs into one big mess of duty and emotion smeared together like an infant spreading spaghetti sauce on the high chair tray. I need to remind myself I set boundaries to protect myself; martyrs are only supposed to die once, after all.

Here I am, in middle age, trying to remake who I am yet again amid trying to process a mammoth amount of emotional trauma. And given my family’s luck with cardiovascular events, I’d rather not let my body make the choice for me.

I honestly have no idea where to begin, but I have to try. I would rather work through this and make decisions about it without my body making those choices for me.

Anyway, that’s my thing this year — finding the right pace for me.

Here’s hoping.

Author: Dylan Wilbanks

Dylan Wilbanks is a web roustabout, raconteur, and curmudgeon currently practicing as a user experience designer in Seattle. He’s spent nearly 20 years designing, building, and perfecting online experiences, and every once in a while does a good job. Occasionally, he speaks at conferences like SXSW and Webvisions. He created one of the first Twitter accounts used in higher education, but that was an accident, and he's really sorry about it. With Kyle Weems, he co-hosts Squirrel And Moose, a podcast about designing and building the web, when they remember to talk about it. He likes nectarines. You can read his tweets at @dylanw and learn more at dylanwilbanks.com.