Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Busy, busy, busy

Does anyone else feel as though we’ve fetishizied business? Some people seem to think it’s the sign of being productive, being worth something to your community. Others feel its lack shows instability of character or ability. Some seem to want pity, or elevation of their own personal woes as a result of how busy they are. Always it’s the excuse: the great catch-all calling sign of disinterest. “Oh I’d love to be able to do that, but I’m just so busy!"

What do you mean when you say “I’m busy”? Let’s be clear: everyone gets 24 hours in a day and if you spend it feeding the poor, working, watching television or just staring at the wall you were doing something the entire time. So in a sense we’re all busy all the time, but presumably that’s not what we mean when we say we’re busy. Sometimes I plan on relaxing in front of the computer with a TV show and some pasta, is that enough to declare myself buys? Can I get out of invitations as a result of being busy with pasta? Do recreational plans allow me to declare that I am really busy this week?
If you’re not busy, what does that mean exactly? Does it really imply something about you? What are you doing with your time, precisely?

What I do find irritating is the large bastion of people who want to engage in time-redistribution though declarations of ‘busy’. I do my best to never be, or claim to be ‘busy’ as I understand it. I know that there is almost always some way of putting an activity into my schedule somewhere. Yes, it requires sacrificing some other activity, but that’s true of literally everything. Perhaps you’re sacrificing feeling sorry for yourself about how lonely you are so that you can go out and spend time with friends. You’re still giving up one activity for another. But there seems the idea that those who do not or will not declare themselves busy owe something to those who unceasingly explain how little time they have (often for hours a day explaining how they have no free hours in their life!)

You wish you had time to take up the piano like I did? I’m not sure how to respond to that. Are you just looking for sympathy? Are you trying to tell me how privileged I am (and if so am I supposed to feel good or poorly about myself)? Are you just inviting me to ask about your life? Are you trying to excuse yourself for having not done so?
Somehow I feel like the last one is the most common. And sadly that’s how I take it most of the time, which is perhaps the worst of all possible explanations. Such a statement takes the accomplishment of another (like learning an instrument) and places it below the generic “busy-ness” of oneself. After all, if learning that instrument were more important that the unmentioned activities, they would’ve learned the instrument! In addition, it’s passing judgment; implying such use of time is somehow frivolous or without meaning. “Ah, I wish I had a chance to frolic around like you do, but there’s real work to be done by us adults.” Excellent, I’ll stay here then shall I?

Perhaps I resent it the same way those who have spent their lives saving up for retirement resent their peers being given money simply because they spent all of their own without a thought for the future. I went to school, did well, planned ahead, and took a job that could both pay for my modest lifestyle while at the same time not demand an unreasonable portion of my time. Now I’m reaping the rewards of those choices and whatever sacrifices they entailed, and I can only say I’m sorry your choices have led you down a path you seem to so regret.
I must say, I do appreciate those who declare themselves busy but admit that they have chosen such a lifestyle. For them being busy is synonymous with feeling fulfilled, or seems to be anyway. Much in the way I would say it’s been a good week since I got to spend much of it outdoors, they would feel their week has been well spent because they were constantly engaged. Is it better than enjoying time in the woods? I don’t know, and I like it when neither of us has to determine who is better for the conversation to proceed.

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