Working FOR the Weekend...Or THROUGH It?

Monday, September 8, 2014

 As a former extra-curricular addict and proud child of the 1990s, I can vouch for the anxiety borne out of being over scheduled.  
The millennial generation has encountered an economic climate in which we must fiercely compete for available jobs, kind of like the Hunger Games, but with résumés instead of weapons.  In 21st century American society, it is not difficult to notice the emphasis we place on monetary success with self-worth. 

This summer, when I returned to my family home in the suburbs, I overheard a conversation between two mothers.   One mother discussed her struggle to cram another activity into her 9-year-old daughter’s schedule.  Somewhere amidst cheerleading, soccer practice, and three dance classes, she just could not seem to fit in the fourth dance class!  Thanks to my renowned eavesdropping abilities, the conversation reminded me of an article I read a year earlier.  “The Busy Trap,” written by talented essayist and cartoonist, Tim Kreider, addresses the ever-escalating pace of life in contemporary America.  While I love Kreider’s writing and concur that there is too much emphasis placed on success in American society, I think that he condemns “the busy trap” too quickly and too broadly.

In “The Busy Trap,” Kreider inquires, “Do you fall into the busy trap?”  He writes of his friends, “they’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”  Well, this observation applies to a great number of people, but it does not apply to everyone.  Some people, myself included, are busier due to activities that improve mental clarity and inner calmness, like yoga.  I know many of my friends opt for meditation or a workout, rather than traditional relaxation.  I won’t lie, I adore my free time, and every time I pile up extra-curriculars, I wish that I could just sit on my bed and sing Doris Day.  However, sometimes healthy activities that decrease stress and blood pressure are even more relaxing than good ole’ down time.  Instead of denouncing busyness in general, it is more beneficial to illuminate the importance of unscheduled time, the kind that allows the imagination to roam wildly.  Despite my personal preferences, it is often a good thing to be busy, and it is especially inspirational to watch people become immersed in their passions.

What I am concerned about is the need to do things for the sake of being busy.  The idea of signing up for an endeavor so that you can bolster your résumé is wrong in itself.  Such disingenuous decisions perpetrate a suffocating sensation of pressure, at least in many young adults who choose this route.  So, rather than posing Kreider’s original question: “Do you fall into the “busy trap?” I amend this proposal to ask: Do you fall into a busy trap you wish that you could evade?  Not all busyness is bad, and we must teach each other to discern positive busyness (being busy and productive due to sheer excitement toward the task at hand), from the detrimental kind (selecting activities for the wrong reasons, such as the desire to enrich your résumé).  I say if you are content being busy – be busy.  But if you sit through certain activities clenching the hind muscles of your jaw in anticipation of it ending, don’t be afraid to quit the things that are unessential to your happiness.
Remember to work smart, not hard.  And, next time you find yourself stressed or anxious - sit down, pour yourself some Pinot, and listen to this...or this....OR this (It will be worth your time).  

Kreider, Tim . "The Busy Trap." The New York Times. N.p., 30 June 2012. Web. 30 Sept. 2013. <>.
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