If you want to see me, you simply cannot. I’m busy. Busy is what I am. It’s a boast disguised as a complaint. I’m too important, sought-after, and put-upon to make time for you. At least at this present juncture. I can check my calendar, which is full, and find time to squeeze you in. Perhaps six Thursdays from now? Between 7:30 and 8:15 in the morning?
What am I busy with? What am I not busy with! First there’s work. I maintain an evangelical devotion to a job they’re currently training a machine to automate. That means clocking 60 hours a week, minimum. Working so many hours helps me maintain the fictional idea that grinding at a job during my prime years is a great way to get ahead—even though I’ve come of age in an America that’s never known capitalism as a functioning economic system.
If I’m not working I’m finding ways to fill the void before I have to work again. Because that’s what busy people do. My “leisure” time is conducted with military-like efficiency. 45-minute workout. 30-minute meditation. 20-minute breakfast. My weekends are planned weekends in advance. “Vacations” adhere to a strict itinerary. Emails answered on the toilet. Podcasts consumed while driving. Bonding time scheduled between conference calls. Idle moments spent doom scrolling.
When friends challenge me on my busyness, I pretend it is completely beyond my control. Like I’m an ICU doctor in a short-staffed hospital, instead of a work-from-anywhere startup employee. Never mind that my job didn’t exist 20 years ago, and will probably cease to exist 20 years from now. It keeps me busy, and that’s essential to my identity. Because busy people matter. My life can’t be meaningless if they need me on this Zoom call.
But my performative busyness isn’t just a hedge against the emptiness of existence. It’s also a status symbol I gleefully flaunt to my friends and followers. “This summer has been crazy busy” is really just another way of saying “I’m important.” A post on a sandy beach with a laptop in the foreground proves I’m “living my best life.” Whether I enjoy spending time in exotic locations hunting for wifi is secondary to being perceived as productive AND adventurous. The gold standard in our post-COVID labor dystopia.
I look forward to raising busy children. From college prep classes to extracurriculars, they’ll have no unstructured time to sit with ideas, test boundaries, learn to self-regulate, or develop social competence. And their busyness will make me even busier, giving me no time to sit with ideas, test boundaries, self-regulate, or develop social competence.
But it beats being alone with yourself. Whoever said “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” should have downloaded a productivity app so they could be more efficient with their time. After all, life could end at any moment. I could stop and smell the roses, but that’d make me late for my next appointment.
See you in six Thursdays!