By: Max Bruns ~Advertising Manager~
“Could you just text me the list of dates where you have an hour or two free? I know you’re busy…” That’s how my mother ended our phone call last week, when she was trying to coordinate times to get me to the doctor.
Yesterday, my boss asked me if I had any time to send him a quick email update about a resident. Two days ago, a professor emailed me wondering if I had a second to step into office hours to talk about my revised schedule for next semester.
My dad sent me vacation plans six months in advance because he “knows how filled my life can get.”
This kind of rhetoric, the world of the “too busy,” the age of the “not enough time,” the millennium of the “filled lives” and “stretched schedules,” is all too familiar to all too many people.
I’m afraid to admit that I have also fallen prey to this world. I have made the active choice to be a participant in what I now consider to be a bit of a charade. Piling club deadlines on top of academic responsibilities on top of job schedules on top of an overactive social ambition, I have prioritized my time based on a mountain of bureaucracy, hoping that the outcome will be some sort of significant participation in making this society a better one for us all to live together.
Some of my more absurd undertakings include two consecutive semesters taking more than 21 credit hours while moving into key upper-level management positions in clubs, taking on two separate full-time jobs in the same employment period, taking a full class load while tutoring, being an RA, working for this newspaper, being an active member of two other clubs in one semester and finally going a week without sleep to write a grand total of 72 pages’ worth of philosophy and English papers. That is not an exaggeration. For five full days I did not sleep with the help of Redbull and coffee.
I used to take pride in these statistics. Family members would ask me how I was doing, and I would smile as I stifled a yawn, saying, “Well, I’m surviving.”
Friends would tell me I looked exhausted, and I would wear the red-eye, messy hair and slept-in sweatpants look with feigned humility, secretly elated that everyone was noticing how busy I was all the time. Too busy for sleep. Too busy for personal health and well-being. Too busy for them, let alone for me.
Before this year, my workload was the equivalent of being a significant part of social change in my mind. If I was keeping busy, I was simply moving closer to being a part of the change I wished to see in the world.
Before this year, stopping to talk to every person on the street was less important than keeping my head down and getting “where I was supposed to be.”
Before this year, life was measured in grades and awards, hours spent working and lists of bureaucratic accomplishments.
But recently, my attitude toward the way I conduct my own life has begun to turn. It all started when I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle. I was on crutches for two weeks, forcing me to slow down and engage with the world around me.
It took me 10 minutes to get to Alter from Husman instead of two. I had to ask people to open doors for me, get food from the caf for me, even carry books back to my room.
In one memorable interaction, I dropped my phone into the sewer and had to ask a girl who was rushing off to class to pull open the sewer grate.
That one week of forced interaction with strangers reminded me of something that I have always known about myself but had completely forgotten about because of how busy I had gotten.
My true values lie with genuine human interaction. I love saying hi to strangers, engaging in meaningful conversations with acquaintances, asking professors and staff members how their days are going and generally being with people.
I love stopping, taking pivotal pauses in the midst of the rush and whirl of a busy modern lifestyle, just to talk and be with other people. And I am certainly not too busy to do that. No one is.
The truth is that I was using my increasingly busy lifestyle to hide from myself and from other people, from being genuine and living in the moment, from appreciating the sunshine and laughing with strangers.
I have made a new vow to myself: I will cut back. I will stop the frantic running. I will not commit to the bureaucratic machines that prevent me from living the life I want to live.
I will assess everything I do for its contribution to my greater vision of making this a good world to live in and of allowing me to sit and be with others.
And finally, I will no longer run from the life I want to live just to impress people with the life that looks impressive from the outside.