As part of my course, I was required to read a lecture from personal essayist Robert Dessaix. While the whole thing was interesting, I particularly liked when he started talking about the idea of having to be ‘busy’, and how we are missing out on so much of life because of it.
He said that when people asked him if he was busy, he always answered, to their complete surprise and quite often, disapproval: “No.”
And this really stuck with me. There is this idea that we have to be using every second as productively as possible, that we should be working and studying and fitting in as much as we can, that to see someone not follow this path seems almost offensive.
One of my friends decided to simply focus on her studies this semester, letting her boyfriend support her while she finishes up her degree. And while I hate to admit, we all did judge her a bit because of this. After all, she had all of this free time. And free time, as you know, is lazy. It’s unproductive. “She should at least have a casual job”, we said. But until I read Dessaix’s piece, I never questioned why. Why did I think this way? Why was seeing someone take time for themselves such an affront to me?
Working in hospitality showed me just how much we pride ourselves on being busy and how we truly revel in feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Often when I asked someone how they were, I got a ‘oh you know, very busy’, in response. Or, more often, I would get ‘large cappuccino’ said as quickly as possible, a perfect example of just how busy we all think that we are.
Most of my friends build up an incredible amount of flex time that they don’t take until they are forced to and leaving at five pm on a work day has become a sign of laziness.
We rush from task to task without stopping to enjoy what we’re doing. Everything has a purpose. Even relaxation has a purpose. It’s scheduled in. It’s another task that we have to tick off on the never ending checklist. And for what? No one lies on their death bed and says “I wish I worked more hours at the office” or “I wish I went to the gym more often”. They say “I wish that I had spent more time with the people I love. I wish that I had enjoyed myself more. I wish that I had stopped and appreciated the little things.”.
I have always been one of those people that always need to be doing something. I put all of this pressure on myself to complete tasks and often found myself becoming quite stressed when I thought of all that I had to do. But that’s the thing: I didn’t have to do it. Most of the things on my checklist are there because I want to do them. I enjoy doing them. Of course, there are things that I don’t enjoy doing, like food shopping and cleaning, but even then- I have a choice. I go food shopping because I like to eat. I clean because I love a clean house. I work because I want the money to travel the world.
The problem was, even with the things I enjoy, I realised that I wasn’t doing them for that reason. I was doing them so that I wasn’t wasting time. So that I too could tell people that I too was busy. That I wasn’t wasting my life.
And in my desperate bid to ‘make the most of life’, I forgot to live. I forgot to enjoy the present and appreciate all of the things that I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to do.
The other day I came home and I looked at the pile of homework that awaited me. I looked at floor that needed a bit of a vacuum and the sheet music that hadn’t been practiced in a few days.
And then I smiled. And curled up on the floor in a warm patch of sunlight to day dream the afternoon away.
Because Dessaix was right. And the next time that someone asks me if I’m busy, I too am going to say ‘No’. And I too am going to mean it.