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If I were to ask you how you are right now, just in one of those in-passing conversational ways, how would you respond?
Before you uttered a word, would you think about the five minutes you had to throw on a sweatshirt and hat before scrambling out the door this morning? Would you think about the coffee stains and your stomach’s soft growling and the timer going off in your head?
Would you be too consumed with the deadlines coming up and the reminders buzzing on your iPhone to form an adequate sentence?
You’d probably think about the place you have to be in the next two minutes and the meeting you’re already late for. You might think about the fact that you don’t really have time to wait in this line anymore. Or much less, you don’t have any time to spare to be talking to this girl you sat next to in that one Geology class last year.
No matter what kind of terminology first entered your mind, it would most likely all culminate into a simple phrase: “I’m busy.”
What would I do then, in this scenario? I’d emphatically nod with one those “me too” grimaces covering my face. Because just in case you were wondering, I’m busy too. Really busy.
But now, the moment is over. We’d both hurriedly keep walking, off to fall into the jam-packed cycle that is daily life as a college student.
Neither of us would think anything of this minor exchange because it’s not special in any way, it repeats itself about 100 times each day, with slightly altered faces and details, on Miami’s campus.
Given how frequently these words escape our daily conversations, “I’m really busy,” is the rallying cry for Miami students. At this rate, we should probably push aside “love and honor” based on popular vote.
We, as a generation and as a student body, are addicted to busyness. We’re addicted to getting through our days in a blur, to adding something else to our schedule and to generally never having any free time. As much as we complain about the lack of available seconds to simply enjoy life, we secretly relish our schedule. In a whirlwind of booked appointments and grocery lists, this kind of lifestyle is seen as an achievement. The more we have to do, the more important we feel.
So we hold onto it and closely clutch the busyness day after day. If we’re not busy, we’re tired from being busy and if we’re none of those things, we’re bored.
We log only as much sleep as we can squeeze in between late night meetings and early morning wakeup calls. We rely on bottomless cups of caffeinated products to keep our eyes open and we constantly add more to our already crumbling plates.
We do it all, we keep going, we don’t wash our hair or eat proper meals because we were told to finish our readings and turn in our homework and respond to our emails. This, we were told, is the path to adulthood.
But if a constant state of busyness is what it takes, I’m not sure I want to be a grown up. I’m not sure I’m cut out for it.
On any given day, my time is spent either checking things off my to-do list, scribbling to-dos in my planner or making a mental note to write a to-do in my planner before I forget.
My overwhelmed body longs for a busy-free day, one filled with taking a shower and baking and hiking and all those things I say I’ll do when life slows down.
Even if I had the ultimate non-busy day though, would I be satisfied? Or would I continue to search for meaning in the hectic back-to-back tasks? Wouldn’t I miss the comfort of saying “I’m busy?”
Here’s the thing I’m finding out about busyness. Here’s the problem with perpetually overworking ourselves and overusing the busy mantra.
Maybe meaning isn’t found in a full schedule and an empty inbox. Maybe it’s found in the quiet moments in between, in the rare, slowed down moments. The moments when we stop our feet and put a pause on our thoughts and let our cell phones go on silent, no matter how urgent that call is. The moments filled with spontaneous ice cream dates and sitting at the dinner table long after the plate are clean, just to keep talking.
Those are the moments I want the sum of my college life and my grown up life to equal to. Especially the moment when I look that person in the eye and say something, anything, other than “I’m busy.”