I’m currently laying in a hammock under some palm trees, listening to church bells play after having just finished a combined cone of hazelnut gelato and blueberry sorbet. Earlier this morning two other students and I hiked to the top of Monte San Giorgio.
What I keep thinking about is the pace at which everything moves here. I remarked to a friend that it feels like Riva is a resort town, everything here is unhurried, the “gelato lady” shuts down for a lunch break in the afternoon, no one is running everywhere and I have time to breathe. But Riva is not a resort town at all. Rather it’s a typical example of Swiss culture in a small town. And that has been the case everywhere we’ve travelled since Monday.
The people we’ve met at the universities have been efficient, but they still have time for relationship making around lunches, playtime on the weekends, and certainly for good coffee and cappuccino. There’s not the “hurry up and do all things today right now five minutes ago!!” that I seem to find in the US higher education system and in the US in general.
My friend Khaled recently remarked that he hates eating. Unpacking that a bit, I discovered that it’s rather the feeling of taking time away from his work that he dislikes. Having to stop for 20 minutes just to shove a sandwich in his face just so he can go back to work isn’t fun for him, but it’s what’s expected.
What would it look like if the US changed our culture to be more like the Swiss and Italians? I think we could be just as efficient, clearly the people we’ve met get things done and are highly accomplished, but without all the stress and responsibility to feel guilty if we aren’t constantly working.
I feel what’s missing in the US is self-care. We spend so much time focusing on work until a health (or some other) crisis forces us to slow down, but I wish it wasn’t that way. Spending an afternoon in a hammock, still working, is better for my mental health then any time I spend in a windowless room in the 5th floor of McBryde.
If there’s one thing (among the millions of things) I’ve learned in this trip, it’s that the US culture has a long way to go in terms of recognizing that self-care as a need rather than a luxury. But if no one is going to give me permission to lay in my hammock and do my work, the I’ll permit myself!!
Long Live Self-Care!!