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A New Yorker Learns to Slow Down




HOST INTRO: There are a lot of myths about what it means to be a real New Yorker: We’re rude, we only wear black, we don’t know how to drive. But one thing is certain, New Yorkers are always in a rush. Native New Yorker Cristina Macaya reflects on her struggle to slow down.


MACAYA: As a kid, whenever I opened my mouth, I spoke quickly. And if you asked me a question, I’d answer almost immediately. In middle school, I was even granted extra time on tests, not because I needed it to finish writing an essay, but because knowing it was there would stop me from nervously racing through an exam. [scribbling sounds] 


When you’re born and raised in New York City, being impatient becomes part of your identity, and hating slow walkers becomes a lifestyle. But this was more than a lack of patience...


Unlike my friends at my competitive private school who played instruments and won chess tournaments, I didn’t have what some would consider a “talent.” My grades were not good. Plus, I had an older sister who was just one year above me. She got straight A’s. I was worried my parents would be disappointed in me and felt like I’d fallen behind.


By 6th grade, I realized I could use my quick-pace to my advantage. Being fast was like my superpower. I broke school records as a freshman on the track team and could type faster than anyone else in my grade. 


Finally, I’d found my talent! And with it, a sense of self-worth. I thought slowing down was a weakness.


[sigh] 


That is until my family and I hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro. I mean, this thing is massive, like really really tall. I was ready to race to the top! 


But, rule number one of hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro: walk slowly. Life on that mountain hinges on slowing down, maintaining a slow pace is the only way to adjust to the high altitude. This made me nervous… but how bad could it really be? My New York superiority complex was kicking in. 


Like a badass middle aged woman in Central Park, I immediately speed walked, overtaking my family with ease. [breath sounds]. Then the air began to thin.


I could taste pennies in my mouth, a weight on my lungs, and a cramp forming underneath my left rib. But, after the first day while miserably setting up my tent, I heard a burst of laughter. [laugh sounds] 


My brother Lucas, sister Alerandra, and Dad were running around looking energized as ever. Where were their cramps, aches, and pains? They were talking about sights they’d seen and inside jokes I couldn’t understand… I felt left out. 


For the rest of the hike I was forced to slow down. But, I got to spend time with my family and eventually the air was running through my lungs again. By some miracle, we all made it to the top just in time to watch the sun rise. Did I faint twice on the way up? Yes. Yes I did. 


Today, I laugh at my fifteen year old self who thought she could hike it in 8 hours. It was one of my biggest accomplishments and I didn’t have to rush to get there. You don’t always need to be quick, I even took my time writing this story and I think it and me have both turned out okay.

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