I had a topic all ready to write about today, but I’m throwing it out the window, and instead I’m going to talk about the recent New York Times editorial “The Busy Trap” that people have been sharing like crazy. Sometimes extremely busy people, which is giving the entire conversation an extra dose of (unintentional?) humor.
I am actually very torn by the idea of the culture of busyness that apparently is not just a Silicon Valley thing (although I can’t pretend to be very surprised it also lives in places like Manhattan). First off, the whole conversation automatically comes from a place of privilege–people who can choose whether or not to be busy because they have time that is not taken up with working to support their families or working insane hours so they will not be fired (and I’m sure there are other examples you can think of).
That being said, it’s still an interesting cultural phenomenon for many of those in the middle class. I’ve certainly seen it countless times here in the Bay Area. And on the one hand, I’m impressed by the busy (which is, after all, partly the point), while on the other hand, it irritates me to no end.
Sometimes, after all, the busy is really cool. I admire people who have decided to embrace their passions, or go out and change the world, or meet tons of fascinating people, or travel around the world. Their social calendars sound exciting, and when you ask them, at the occasional party, what they’ve been up to, they always have something to say beyond, “Eh. I work. And then I don’t work.” There is a certain energy some of these people have that can be quite intoxicating, as they catapult from event to event and obligation to hobby. And I’m really happy for them and encourage them to follow their dreams.
But on the flip side, it’s hard to become Friends with a capital F with these busy people. Because all those activities take time, and it has to come from somewhere. And when you try to get together and have to schedule a month ahead…to have dinner…and there’s not even kids or babysitters or anything involved…and this happens every time you try to schedule…well, it becomes an obstacle. And it is difficult to build intimacy with local friends who you are not able to see once a month or so, at least during some formative period at the beginning of the friendship (honestly I’d say every other week, but Silicon Valley has forced me to adapt my expectations).
I am not busy. Not like that. I have my weeks that go off the rails, and I travel a fair amount, but here is my secret. I like not being busy. I like having time when I’m sitting around thinking. I like having lazy Sundays when I sleep in, take my dog to the park, read a novel, and maybe go out for sushi in the evening. I like having time to write this blog. I like having time to notice what’s going on around me, and I like silence, and I like days when I have nothing scheduled. And sometimes at parties, all I have to say is, “Well, I’ve been writing.”
Not to give you the wrong idea. I still have stuff I have to get done, obligations to meet, appointments to keep, projects going full swing. I vigilantly guard my writing time, even when I’m invited to do fun stuff. But it’s a very different pace. It is definitely a privilege.
And I have the time to appreciate that.