Life Is Too Short To Be Busy

Life Is Too Short To Be Busy

If I were to die tomorrow, I would wish the same thing: that I spent more time with the people I love, instead of being so "busy" all the time. Wouldn't you?

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It's become an almost automatic response for us when asked how we're doing to say we're "busy." According to author Tim Kreider in "The 'Busy' Trap", this response is obviously "a boast disguised as a complaint." When we tell people we're busy, we expect other people to marvel at how much we have going on, and probably to think it's a "good problem," much better than the opposite.

But Kreider continues with this: "notice it isn't generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are." This is something I personally know to be true (when my mom often had to juggle multiple jobs) - what these people are, is " tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet." The difference between being "busy" and tired is that when we lament our busyness, it's almost entirely self-imposed. We are "busy because of [our] own ambition or drive or anxiety, because [we're] addicted to busyness and dread what [we] might have to face in its absence."

Krieder then goes into an anecdotal account of a friend he asked to hang out with and spend time with during the week, and the friend responded that he didn't have a lot of time, but could ditch work for a couple hours to let him know if something was going on. "I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation." Krieder recalls the days of his own childhood, when he had three hours completely unstructured and unsupervised every day. This time "provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life."

Busyness is not a condition and not just a product of our times, it is "something we've chosen." For me, choosing to be a college athlete, President and contributor to a publication, and pre-medical student with a double major was also something I chose, not a necessary condition. I chose to be busy, but I certainly felt pressure to by my peers, by society, and it's a feeling that I know so many of my friends feel, too. According to Krieder, "it's not as if any of us wants to live like this...it's something we collectively force one another to do."

Again, I don't believe being busy is a bad thing, and even after reading this article, it's unlikely that I'll suddenly change all my life decisions and stop being busy. Sometimes, it is and can be a good thing. But this article was a punch in the gut, for calling and relating busyness as it actually is, sometimes: "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."

We want to believe everything we do, we do because we have no other choice, we do because what we do is inherently indispensable to society. But that last part isn't true - at least for me - there is no way me getting an A instead of an A- in a class serves any huge benefit to society, nor is there any reason someone else is going to lose sleep over my times in track races. This anxiety we have is "a form of institutional self-delusion." In Krieder's words, "I can't help but wonder whether this histrionic exhaustion isn't a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn't matter."

Krieder then talks about himself as someone who isn't busy, who is the "laziest ambitious person I know." His best days are those where he writes in the mornings, runs errands and goes on bike ride s in the afternoon, and sees friends in the evening. If a friend called him up and asked him to skip work and check out a new wing of a museum or have a beer in a park, "I will say, what time?"

In the months prior to the article, however, Krieder started actually being busy. "I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon." But we can't deny how much actually being busy, like the people pulling back-to-back shifts in the ICU or the ones commuting from three jobs on buses, takes away from us. Krieder had many requests asking him 'to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve." Being busy is so undesirable and unhealthy in excess - to counterbalance it, we need idleness sometimes.

"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets." We need our time of idleness and quiet to take a step back and reflect on life. We need our time of idleness to make and strengthen our connections, whether intended or unintended. Sitting around and being idle is "necessary to getting any work done." Any writer can tell you that most of writing is just putting thoughts you've had for a long time on paper - and when do you have the most time and room to think? Idleness.

"The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment." Krieder concedes that the world would likely go to ruin if everyone took his perspective on idleness and busyness - the ideal life "lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world's frenetic hustle." He stops to express gratitude at his own luck - as we all should when we can be idle - that "my own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue."

But the second half of the closing paragraph, is his zinger, what I believe to be the crown jewel of the article. A long time ago, Krieder made a "conscious decision...to choose time over money, since I've always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love." When he goes to the grave, he thinks what will go through his mind, instead of regretting everything he didn't do, is "[wishing] that I could have had one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy."

Life is too short to be busy. If I were to die tomorrow, I would wish the same thing: that I spent more time with the people I love, instead of being so "busy" all the time. Wouldn't you?

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To High School Seniors In Their Last Semester

Senior year moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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Dammit, you made it. The final semester of your senior year. You’re at the top of the food chain of high school, and it feels so good. You’re probably praying this last semester flies by, that you get out of town as soon as possible.

At this point, you’re calling teachers by their first names, the entire staff knows you by name, and you’re walking around school standing tall, owning those hallways. You’re convinced you’re ready to leave and move on to the next chapter in your life.

You’ve already experienced your last football game, standing in the cold in the front row of the student section all season long, decked out in your school colors and cheering loud and proud. That is, until they lost, and you realized you will never have that experience again. Never again.

SEE ALSO: What I Wish I Knew As A Second-Semester High School Senior

You already had your last winter break. Preparing and celebrating the holidays with your family, ice skating and sledding with your best friends. Those quiet nights alone in your room watching Netflix, taking for granted your loved ones just a few rooms away. Never again.

If you’re an athlete, you may have already played in your last game or ran your last race. The crowd cheering, proudly wearing your school’s name across your chest, giving it your all. For some, it may be the end of your athletic career. Before you knew it, you were standing in an empty gym, staring up at the banners and thinking about the mark you left on your school, wondering where on earth the time went. Never again.

I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss it all. Everything you’ve ever known. Those early mornings when you debate going to first hour because you really need those McDonald’s hash browns. The late nights driving home from practice, stopping for ice cream of course, ready for a late night of homework. Getting food on a whim with your friends. Endless fights with your siblings. Your favorite chips in the pantry. A fridge full of food. Coming home to and getting tackled by your dog. Driving around your hometown, passing the same sights you’ve seen every day for as long as you can remember. Hugs from your mom after a long day. Laughs with your dad. And that best friend of yours? You’re going to miss them more than anything. I’m telling you right now, nothing will ever be the same. Never again.

SEE ALSO: I'm The Girl That Enjoyed High School

Before you start packing your bags, slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. You’ve got it pretty good here. The end of your senior year can be the time of your life; it’s truly amazing. So go to the winter dance, go to Prom, spend Senior Skip Day with your classmates, go to every sporting event you can, while you still can. College is pretty great, but it’s the little things you’re gonna miss the most. Don’t take it for granted because soon, you’ll be standing in a packed gym in your cap and gown, wondering where the heck the time went. You’ve got a long, beautiful life ahead of you, full of joy but also full of challenges. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, people who will treat you right and people who won’t.


So, take it all in. Be excited for the future and look forward to it, but be mindful of the present. You’ve got this.
Cover Image Credit: Hartford Courant

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To The Friend Starting The Next Chapter Of Her Life With The National Guard

I wish you the very best at all times, and I'm always here when you need me.

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You were so nervous. You knew it wasn't going to be easy. It was even going to be your first time on a plane, along with your first time really being on your own. You may not have been 100% sure of what you were about to do, but I knew you were ready. I watched you grow throughout high school, especially our senior year, and I want you to know just how proud I am of you for making this life-changing career choice.

Joining the military isn't an easy choice, and boy, did you put a lot of time into your decision. I remember when you first mentioned the idea to me. I was surprised of course, but I never once doubted your capability. For a while, you continued to toss the idea around with your others, and eventually, you made your decision.

These next few months may seem like forever right now, but once you get into it, they're going to fly by. I can't wait for it to be May so I can hear about all of your adventures on one of our famous late night drives or Steak 'n Shake runs that usually end with us sitting in my driveway for hours talking, laughing and sometimes even crying. Summers were always the best with you, from trips to Cedar Point where I worked, Kalahari where you working, or the mall, of course. This summer, however, will be different. You and I will both have just gone through huge events, mine being my first year of college, and yours being boot camp. Even though we don't see each other as often as we used to, we're still close, and I admire that about us. No matter how many miles there are between us, I promise to always be here for you, at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and everything in between.

So, through these next few months, just keep in mind that I'm right there next to you, and I will always be a text, Snap, call, letter or email away. It may seem tough, maybe even impossible at times, but you're tougher. You always have been. You have me and a whole party bus full of friends and family backing you up, and we all believe in you. Now, go show the National Guard what you're made of!

XOXO, your "twin," Ash

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