Thinking about chronic busyness

Grace Boehm

Contributing Writer

geboehm@goshen.edu

Grace Boehm reflects on balancing a life of busyness with self-care. Photo contributed by Grace Boehm.

Grace Boehm reflects on balancing a life of busyness with self-care.
Photo contributed by Grace Boehm.

Have you ever been asked the question “How are you doing?” and replied with some response like “crazy busy” or “busy, but good?”

First things first: “busy” is not a feeling.

Life in college is full. It is a daily balancing act of class assignments, social interactions, and commitments to sports, clubs, employment, family life and to other co-curricular activities. Throw a few hours of sleep in there occasionally and you’ve got a full plate and a whole lot of stress.  I am a fifth-year senior this semester, pursuing degrees in history and environmental science. I have been through four years of chronic stress, working part-time, taking 16 credits a semester, and running track and cross-country.  I understand what it means to be a full-time student. It has been during this semester, taking my last classes at GC and running my last season, that I have started to question what I may have missed out on while I was busy in the self-absorption of my own schedule.

There are many reasons that people are busy out of necessity to support their families or themselves. I would like to argue, though, that our society’s collective equation of busy equals better is wrong.  When we are only involved in the self-centeredness of our own busy schedules, we often miss the opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level. We may partake in activities alongside somebody else, but we aren’t engrossed with who that person is or how they’re doing. We twiddle with our electronics instead of actually listening to our friends or professors.  What’s wrong with sitting still? What’s wrong with taking time for self-care? Am I lazy if I prioritize my mental health over my schoolwork? There seems to be a message sent to us from greater society that our performance is valued over our personhood.

We all know people who are incredibly busy. They are the kind of people that you legitimately question whether or not they own a Time Turner. How do they possibly get so much done in one day? At first it seems impressive, but upon further reflection, you realize that it isn’t healthy.

I want to share with you, Goshen, that busyness does not equal hard work. Idleness does not equally laziness. Plans, rules, and structures are good… but not all the time. One of the greatest parts of SST for me was taking the free time to explore and grow of my own accord. In my service placement, I worked only 6 hours a week. The rest of my time was divided between reading, running, self-care, exploration, and engagement with others and myself.  Those five weeks were the first time in my college career that I had almost nothing required of me. No structure, no plans, and only a few rules. It was difficult to unlearn my desire to fill days with a schedule.

It’s hard to find that delicate balance between what makes you happy and what makes you a better student and a better human. Not every class will have direct application to your life—and that’s okay—as long as you can acknowledge the worth of school in your long-term goals. College is a place where we get to learn from incredible scholars and contribute to an environment of curiosity. One of the ways that we can honor our scholastic environment and ourselves is to remember that learning is a gift and not a requirement. Trim your unnecessary busyness down and add something fun and worthwhile. Or if you can’t cut anything out, simply prioritize yourself for a few hours a week.

In my opinion, being chronically busy doesn’t lead to being healthy and happy. It can lead to anxiety, high levels of self-criticism, and inaccurate performance-based evaluation. Maybe I think this way because I am at a point in my life where I have finally realized that the relative letter grade assigned to me in a course does not determine my worth or my intelligence, that my GPA is not my identity, and that really, the world will not collapse if I fail an exam or miss a class. Busyness is a default for so many of us; don’t let it consume your happiness. And next time somebody asks you how you are, don’t say anything about your schedule. Say something about yourself.

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