This op-ed piece from Tim Kreider about the current state of “being busy” came out a little over a week ago, and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately, as I think many others have. I’ve selected a paragraph from the piece, which I thought summed it up quite nicely.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.
It’s funny, because after I read it I took somewhat of a different approach to the story. I could easily say that I’m quite busy. I have a full time job at Disney, plus I run The Fox Is Black, and I have a relationship, two dogs and wonderful friends. I could easily spend every waking hour doing something. What this article made me realize is that I began giving this default response when people asked me how I was, or what I did over the weekend.
“I’ve been so busy.” or “It was a really busy weekend, Kyle and I did so much.”
I wasn’t actually saying anything of interest, or expounding upon my busyness, I just was. After reading this piece I’ve made a concerted effort to stop doing that. I didn’t have a “busy” weekend, I went to art shows, I went to BBQs, I saw movies and I had an amazing drink which you should try. These are the appropriate responses you give people. It’s a small thing, but I feel like it an important distinction to make in our already second-to-second world.
P.S. I decided to use a Kozyndan drawing rather than the one from the story because it wasn’t large enough, and I felt like it did a good job of expressing the story.