In a recent conversation with my sister, she announced to me that she decided to take a year off from her PhD program. She had been thinking about this for a while, but finally made a firm decision about it. I'm proud of her. Frankly, she has been so stressed out working part time, teaching, and going to classes that she was obviously pretty unhappy.
But when my sister started voicing her concerns about stress and not having time to enjoy the things she loves to colleagues and professors, she received largely the same response: "You're a grad student. You aren't supposed to have free time."
Does anyone else realize how ridiculous that sounds?
Our Culture Glorifies “Busy”
Reflecting on my sister’s experience, I realized that I had the same mindset while in college. In fact, I graduated with that blind glorification of busy-ness. I suddenly had all this free time without classes and homework, but I felt like all that free time had to be spent doing something, well, productive. I couldn’t use my time for simple pleasantries like reading, video games, watching TV. Those activities, which should have been enjoyable, left me with an immense, crushing guilt that I was wasting my life.
Increasingly, admitting you have downtime, admitting that you aren’t busy, or that you don’t want to be busy is like admitting you’re a failure. Well, maybe not a failure, but what about all the other negative labels that get attached to you if you aren’t busy - lazy, unambitious, slacker.
On the other hand, how do you answer when people ask how life’s been? I’m guessing you answer, “busy”.
That’s a little messed up, isn’t it?
From my perspective, no matter how “busy” your life situation requires you to be, you should always make time for yourself. If not, stress overtakes your life and you’re no longer enjoying it. After all, what’s the point of life if not to enjoy it?
Take a step back, breathe, enjoy something that maybe doesn’t seem like it accomplishes anything. And, without question, don’t feel guilty about it.
No One Should Feel Guilty For Simply Enjoying Life
I'm happy to say that I've largely let go of the expectation that I have to constantly be busy. I've slowed down, I'm less stressed, I'm happier, and I try to enjoy my life each and every day. My life certainly isn't glamorous, but I've realized that it doesn't have to be glamorous for it to be freaking awesome. Most nights, I have a big chunk of free time where I have no obligations. I like it that way. I spend a lot of time doing the things I want to do, like reading, writing, CrossFit, playing video games, cooking up stuff for the blog, etc. Some of those things are more "productive" than others, but I don't evaluate those activities based on their productivity.
Obviously, not everyone has the free time that I do. There are numerous circumstances that could be different in your life - a more time-demanding career or a family, for example. Likewise, it can be difficult to teach yourself to un-glorify busy-ness (goodness, all the hyphens in this post). But keep trying. Find the activities that will help you relax, de-stress, reconnect with yourself, and re-discovering happiness and gratitude - whether it's meditation, reading, writing, running, interpersonal time with family or friends. Make time for them. Make them habit - not part of a "busy" schedule, but an automatic space for yourself in a schedule. And finally, don't feel guilty about it!
Do you struggle with the glorification of busy and feeling like you always need a task to accomplish? Do you struggle with slowing down and enjoying life in the moment?
In what ways do you tackle this issue head on?