The Busy Contest

I’m a pretty busy person. But busy-ness is relative. Everyone has their own definition. We love to dismiss others’ notions of busy in our unrelenting competition to be the most busy and win the prize for wedging 25+ hours into each day. This is, I think, mostly an American thing. But I digress.

So, I tell myself I’m busy. I’m a full-time employee and a part-time engineering student. I go to the gym four times a week. I make all my food for the week on Sunday mornings. Five meals per day, cooked and packed for five days. I do most of my homework on the weekends. I belong to a book club, so I read a book every month and spend a couple hours drinking beer and discussing the book with some fun folks. (I have about 230 pages left in this month’s book. The meeting is a week from today. I’ll probably finish the book, I hope.) I write a blog post every week. I spend another hour every week doing free writing, a goal I set for myself six months ago. I try to keep up on a few tv shows. Thankfully Hulu and my DVR mean I don’t have to devote time to that every week.

So yeah, my life is full. I don’t have a lot of down time. I’m usually trying to do a few things at once, slicing up the day into little time slots that I fill, minute by minute, to get it all done.

But I could be busier. As any parent would be very anxious to tell to me, I could be doing all this plus raising a child. I could be doing all this plus going to school full time instead of part time. I could be doing all this while also participating in extracurricular engineering groups and projects. I could be doing all this while traveling all over the country or the world for my job. I could be doing all this in a foreign country while at the same time trying to learn the language. To put it mildly, shit could be worse.

Thinking of buying this for my office. If you want your very own, check out the est1986 Etsy shop!

I should be rejoicing that I’m able to accomplish all these things while also getting enough sleep every night and carving out some social time, but instead I feel guilty. If I can find time for two classes every semester, what should prevent me from taking three? Going to the gym is a luxury – if I have time to work out four nights a week, obviously I’m not working hard enough. Seven hours of sleep every night? Puuh-leeze! I should be able to survive on four and push through the day smiling.

If I eliminated my workouts and cut my sleep in half, I could easily take another class, join the Formula SAE racing team, be actively involved in SWE and catch up on every cable series recommended to me by my friends in the last three years (I’m halfway through the first season of Game of Thrones…I really am trying, guys).

Yep. I could do that. Some people would. I don’t condemn them. I applaud their drive and commitment. I secretly envy them. I’d love to have a few more lines on my resume and finish school in less time. But I won’t. I’m spending five years of my life on this little adventure. Five years of my life. I’m not just a student. I’m a sister and a friend and a daughter and an employee and a human being who needs her sleep and her (physical and mental) health. I want to look back on these five years and remember not just working really hard, but also having a life.

This graph appears in my head whenever I think about sleeping less and skipping the gym.

This graph appears in my head whenever I think about sleeping less and skipping the gym.

I think it’s okay to be busy without trying to win the prize for most busy. I think there’s a healthy amount of busy, and I think it’s up to everyone to define that for themselves. I, for one, can’t function on less than six hours of sleep. Not an exaggeration. Anyone who has ever interacted with me on less than six hours of sleep can vouch for that. I’m almost not human. I’m an angry, ugly, sick ball of uselessness. I wouldn’t be much use to myself or anyone else if I was like that every day.

So I chug on. With my classes and my cooking and my workouts and my book club. I am busy (and yes, sometimes I complain), but it’s a busy that I chose and a busy that, at least usually, motivates me but doesn’t threaten to kill me. That’s a luxury that not that many people on our planet can enjoy. So, I think, instead of trying to win the contest for most busy, those of us with a choice should just relish the busy we picked.

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3 thoughts on “The Busy Contest

  1. Yes, busyness is relative. I often find myself comparing what I’m doing (or not doing) to others and feeling bad that I get overwhelmed with what seems like relatively few activities. I am trying to focus instead on what I want and need to do and to be okay with what that looks like. In reality, maybe my life is pretty balanced and I’m just protecting my time so I’m not always “crazy busy.”

    I think the list of activities you have chosen for yourself are very you. That is a good thing. They all (school, work, book club, working out, making meals) seem very thoughtfully chosen and aligned with your goals.

    • I shouldn’t have made that parenthetical list, because I left out your free-writing and blogging! I’m so happy for you that you’ve kept these up, because I know they were goals you’ve wanted to meet for a long time. Congrats.

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