The cult of busy: are you a member?

By Victoria Fryer 

In the last several years, especially among Americans, there has been much conversation—and many think pieces—on our culture’s apparent obsession with being busy.

Stress and busyness seem to carry with them some kind of cache; perhaps it carries with it the implication that you’re in demand, you’re indispensable, you’re important. And people brag about being busy. If I had a dollar for every time I asked someone at work how they are and to the response of, “So busy!” with a huge smile on their face, I could probably quit my job. I’m a victim of this too, of course. We all like to feel important. We all like to feel needed. Right?

In Slate Magazine’s “You’re Not as Busy as You Say You Are,” Hanna Rosin writes, “Busyness is a virtue, so people are terrified of hearing they may have empty time. It’s like being told that you’re obsolete.” But what Rosin and authors of other articles—like “The Busy Trap” in the New York Times or the Huffington Post’s “Being Busy as a Status Symbol”—are trying to say is: Stop glorifying busyness.

The culture of busy has always been something I’ve, in a way, fretted about. I feel pressure to be busy, but most of the time? I’m just not. Sure, I work an eight-hour day and have a 45 minute commute on either end of that, and that takes up a large chunk of my weekdays. But I find that, without children or any other particularly significant responsibilities, I have plenty of free time to do what I want.

In an evening, I’ll cook dinner and still have time to watch a couple episodes of my favorite TV show, read a book, or do some writing. On the weekends, we may sleep in late—or if not, we’ll lounge around the living room or patio, drinking coffee as the sun rises. Then we’ll either spend time with friends or family, watch movies, or do more reading.

This is, if not the unique, the more common luxury of the childless and childfree. And I enjoy my free time. I have enough stimulating hobbies to ensure that I’m rarely bored but few enough responsibilities to ensure I’m rarely overwhelmed. And this is one of the things I enjoy most about being childfree. (And I know this kind of sentiment is what gets people calling us selfish, but really—I simply don’t handle overwhelm as well as some people.)

As I mentioned, I definitely struggle with this fear of, as Rosin writes, being “obsolete.” I’ve written before about how I wonder if I’m doing “enough” with my free time. But I try to remind myself that my time is my time, and I can spend it in the ways that make me happy and make my life feel full—without feeling overtaxed and overwhelmed.

I wonder what other childless and childfree people feel about the culture of busy. Do you try to ensure that your time is fully scheduled, or do you enjoy more leisure time?

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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