I am a victim of a problem – more of an epidemic actually.
You hear it every time you ask someone how they are doing.
Picture this, a typical interaction between two humans who run into each other, perhaps in passing in the library:
Human 1: “Hey how are you?”
Human 2: “Hey, you know, I’m so busy, but I’m good.”
Human 1: “Oh yes, same here! Let’s get lunch sometime!”
Lunch? Yeah right, let’s grab lunch when we are all not busy in some alternate universe that involves Spring Break year round.
We are all busy people, living busy lives being busy doing something. But I’ve started asking: what are we actually doing? Some nights, I lay awake haunted by the fact that yeah, I filled every hour of the day, but am left with an empty feeling that I accomplished nothing worthwhile. I wear my busyness like a well-deserved medal of honor as I emerge from the trenches of my four-year university experience at my nice little school.
I read an essay about busyness by Tim Kreider, an author and cartoonist, and I’ve been thinking about it for a while. It’s made me stop and wonder what exactly I’m doing with my time, and it’s made me want to stop saying I’m busy.
Tim says, “It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school; it’s something we collectively force one another to do. It may not be a problem that’s soluble through any social reform or self-help regimen; maybe it’s just how things are.”
We seem to have just accepted the way things are, and now even pine after the word to pepper into our daily conversations. Busyness is so widespread that a new academic research project has determined it to be a new symbol of social status. Saying we are busy leads to affirmation, and has become the new cool thing. I’m just as guilty of subconsciously wanting this kind of affirmation as anyone, but does it really have to be this way?
Maybe you’re in 18 hours and working a part time job, maybe you’re entering a new relationship and can’t figure out how to balance your time, maybe you’re still behind on sleep from Sing Song, or you just haven’t found your groove even eight weeks into the semester. But maybe, it’s time to stop wasting our breath saying the same thing as everyone else and use those breaths work hard and rest well. Maybe it’s time to stop tweeting out our scheduled complaints one-upping our friends because obviously, we’re each more busy than everyone who’s ever tried to balance school, work, sleep and a social life.
If you’ve seen me lately, I’ll go out of my way to tell you I’m not busy. Because for the first time ever, I’m actually not. I’m in one class a week. I graduate in seven weeks. And then I’m off to the races again at graduate school. While it takes nearly everything in me to resist filling every waking hour with some sort of task or appointment, I’m really glad I’m learning to remove the word “busy” from my vocabulary.