Redeeming the busy life

So far, the twenties decade of life seems to be one of daily self-therapy sessions. It must also be the decade of the sad cycle of the recognition, resolution, and then eventual casting away of good intentions to make positive changes. Recently, I was perched on the kitchen counter, eating a meager dinner of yogurt and some cookies at the fashionably late hour of 9pm while scrolling through social media. In the midst of mindlessly taking a bite it occurred to me that I must be super busy if this makeshift supper passed a test of normalcy. I quickly did a self-check: Did I feel busy? No. Do I have any unscheduled down time? No. Was I especially bothered by these realizations? Nope, not a bit. In fact, I was proud.

Between the two jobs that I hold, I often exceed the American qualification of full-time employment. As is usually the case in the multiple-job scenario, the jobs are very different and therefore require at least one wardrobe change in addition to necessitating that I convey enough snacks to replace all three meals. I refuse to live out of my car, which augments the façade that I not only have time to do all required activities, but that I also have enough time to stay organized. It also means that I get a bonus workout at the end of the day when I drag all of my daily necessities up the stairs. The constant compartmentalizing of my life keeps me present in the moment, which is definitely a benefit. However, it also allows me to be a tad delusional about work-life balance, or the lack there-of. Just because I efficiently balance the schedules of my activities does not mean that I have balance.

Finding that a synonym for busy is unavailable gave me a good chuckle because of its apt description of the majority of my life. Occasionally I reject invitations because I have used up all of my limited social energy for the week. Frequently I reject social proposals due to prior commitments. In other words, my constant need to go and do actually makes me unable to go or do. From a relatively young age, my life has been consistently hectic and I always found a sense of superiority in my busyness. I perceived free time as negative space waiting to be filled up with an extra sport, club, or event. When I discovered résumés, the pressing need to fill every waking hour with productivity only increased. Multiple times in both high school and college, concerned individuals heavily suggested (and in some cases sternly implored) that I lessen the self-inflicted burden of busy in order to prioritize and engage fully in the most significant areas. I always found these external analyses annoyingly humbling because for a long time I foolishly equated busy with successful, when in reality my busy made me unavailable, disconnected, and increasingly unproductive when it mattered most in jobs, relationships, and personal mental health.

Many people, myself currently included, do not have the luxury of not having busy schedules. Bills have to be paid, family members need care, and food must be prepared (or take-out retrieved at the very least). However, my brain is finally registering that busy is more of a self-important mindset than a state of being. When I label my life as busy, I often lose sight of all the wonderful ways I can capably add value. Instead, I pat myself on the back for doing so much and make excuses for the reasons I can’t do anything else. I have found that while having a full schedule is not necessarily a bad thing, I might not be realizing my full potential in every area of life. Of course I cannot whip up more hours in the day. Of course it is acceptable to say no to an event because I simply am not interested. Of course I cannot ditch my responsibilities and obligations. I can, however, intentionally pursue a full-time life of balance in which I approach each hectic day with a goal of adding value in every thought, word, and action. My objective can and should be to fill up my days by building meaningful relationships, accomplishing personal goals (such as eating food that actually resembles dinner, while seated at a table) and happily allowing some moments to be completely devoid of an agenda.

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