Tuesday was, as always, meeting night.
I have weekly meetings on Tuesday nights in JTown. I finish up as quickly as possible at work, jump in my car, rush down 3rd street until I hit the block, then drive in circles looking for a loading zone spot or resigning myself to paying the $3 for a structure. The meeting ends about two hours later, I head home, take a shower, and then get down to writing.
Tuesdays are busy nights.
In the legacy of internet "disapproving nod"-ing, a favorite topic of condemnation has been the illustrious "busy." In articles ranging from The New York Times to LifeHacker, there have been a number of pieces written about that jarring moment when a person describes themselves as "busy."
Tim Kreider at the NYT says that being "busy" partially comes from a need for a life that is not "...silly or trivial or meaningless..." while Janet Choi at LifeHacker delivers a condescending list of advice after listing out an even more condescending list of "translations" for what people mean when they say that they're "busy" ("I matter" holds the top of the list.) Hanna Rosin at Slate straight up calls it a "fretful brag."
There's another one floating around Facebook this week that I haven't had the energy to click on. Because I've been too busy.
Each week I have at least one meeting at night, two blogs posts to put up, a social life to generally maintain, and usual human things to do such as clean my room, do the laundry, or go for a run. This is not a brag -- this is my existence.
I get off work around 6:30 and hurry to whatever dinner or meeting (or dinner meeting) I have scheduled. After the meeting is done, I go home so I can prepare my lunch for the next day. If I have time I will go for a run, but usually I end up just sitting down to write. After writing for about an hour (if even that), I get to bed, then wake up the next morning to do it all over again.
I am often asked how my life is. I say that it is "busy" not to show off but because it's just that -- it's been busy, but it's all for good reason.
I head to meetings because, as a Los Angeles transplant and Little Tokyo organizer, I not only need to maintain the organization I work with but also keep abreast about and contributing to the community at large. I prepare my lunch the night before so I can save money. I write because I want to write and have set timeline goals for myself that I intend to maintain. I sleep because that's what people do. I go to work because I have a job.
I do not stay busy to feel important or to somehow mollify fears and "spend my time on distracting stuff that doesn't really matter, that's not all that important, where I'm not actually needed" as Choi puts it. If this were true I would have dropped everything a long time ago. Contrary to what the internet believes, I actually do not like missing the fun.
I don't take enjoyment from saying no to trips with friends or going on spontaneous weeknight ice cream runs. There is no self-important glee in having to respond to an invitation with "I'll try to make it." I have friends who have stopped inviting me to things as they know that my response will likely be in the negative and I have to remind friends when I have downtime.
Inviting yourself to a hangout because your friends have forgotten you exist is not a good look.
But everything that fills up my time is an important, valuable part of my development as a human contributing to society. I know that the work I do as an organizer will have implications on a broader scale and I know that my frugality in making my lunch will result in increased savings and a better quality of life. I know that taking on more tasks at work will teach me new ways to communicate with a team and build efficiency into my process. I make time for my friends when I can and that hang out time adds to the "busy-ness" -- I'm happy to have that.
Why are we so concerned with this generation (a generation that graduated in the middle of an economic crisis potentially triggered by many folks offering criticism) being busy when we need to be more and more productive to meet the demands of our changing city and changing world? Instead of nixing the word and lifestyle of "busy," why don't we instead encourage productivity and offer alternate ways to get through our days with care? To believe that "busy-ness" is an antonym to good health is a naive understanding at best.
If I want to keep busy, I'm going to keep busy. I'm not going to stop using that word just because it makes someone feel inadequate to the point of placing judgement. I am not satisfied with a sedentary life because I know that my growth as a person did not stop once I graduated college. The path to completion is a life-long journey that only advances when I am challenging myself to be a better, more experienced person that I was yesterday.
But that's just me. I'm not in it to condemn or celebrate how someone chooses to live their life or describe their existence.
I hope that you will extend the same courtesy.