(I’m NEVER) Busy

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” Jane Austen

I always wonder why many people love to say “I am busy.” I don’t hear people in academia, and other professional worlds, say that they are not busy. Indeed, I hear ‘busy’ word too often.

I actually often have people told me that “I am busy.” That’s their words, not mine. Guess because it’s not easy to find me without appointment. Mostly because I travel a lot therefore being disappeared too often, don’t have any regular schedules, rarely answer my phone or even cellphone (because I rarely remember to bring it) –though it’s very easy to reach me, just email me! Or people assume that I am busy. I usually respond, ”Oh, am I?”

Many people tend to give an impression that they are busier than others. People like to complain that they have no time for this and that….. and when you’re trying to make an appointment they find it difficult to arrange… you know… When someone says he is busy, then the other will respond by saying that he/she is busy too, or even busier. What is this about ‘busy’ culture? Why people seem to be so much into ‘busy competition’?

Busy, I think, is a state of mind, not a state of affairs. I am never busy. I sometime, or many times, have many things to do, that’s true. I sometime work really hard. I sometime get absorbed in things I do. But that’s different. I wouldn’t call it busy. I always have time when I try to make time for someone or something.

Hard work is hard work. It’s absorbing, engrossing, taking time and energy. But it’s done when you try to get it done and when you have it done. And afterward, you are free from it. Temporarily, at least.

So, what is this ‘busy’ thing that we always use? Is it the annoying feeling of being scattered about? Is it when you ask: What the heck am I doing? Why am I taking too many calls? Why am I answering these emails? Why can’t I focus on this work?’

Or, is it the defence mechanism many of us use to avoid things? Busy as to say “I am occupied and therefore don’t bother me”? Is it a gesture of smugly pretending to be busy? To avoid a social event, a new project, a vacation?…. when someone ask you “I wonder whether you would like to …” and you say “Sorry, I can’t, I’m busy.”

OK, perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps there are some people who are really really ‘occupied’, busy that is. But I cannot believe that there are people who are always relentlessly busy. It’s not logical that one person can consistently have so really much to do, all hours, all days, all time, for the whole year, 2 years, 10 years, 20 years. Oh!!! Or is it more about the symbolic (not factual) meaning of ‘busy’? People like to give impression that they are busy because the word ‘busy’ is meant to convey the message that they are indispensable, more dedicated, more important…. “better” than others…?

But well, what can I do with this anyway? Perhaps I’ll just cringe and say to myself, “Oh, no you’re not that busy.”

So, anyway…. today, I had lunch with a PhD student — I am in her committee. This student told me, “I chose you to be my committee because, unlike everybody else, you sleep more than 8 hours, you don’t look busy, and still are productive. I think I’ll follow you wherever you go.” (FYI, she didn’t follow me, she graduated, became her own person, and now is having her own career ;-)).

What a compliment! Haha. I can say amen to more-than-8-hours-sleep-and-not-busy thing, but no comment about productivity — it is relative 😛

So, those who think they are so busy… I have a quote from Plato for them..

“I find it pretty tiresome personally, and I feel sorry that my friends should think they’re being very busy when they’re really doing absolutely nothing. Of course, I know your idea of me: you think I’m just a poor unfortunate, and I shouldn’t wonder if you’re right. But then I don’t THINK that you’re unfortunate — I know you are.”

Wink 😀

— mer

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