“You’re Not Too Busy, You’re Just a Little Rude”.
That was the title of an article I recently read. It did not give anyone slack for using the “I’m too busy” excuse.
The article went on to say that people equate being busy with success, and somehow idle time means you’re lazy. They ignore people and avoid commitments claiming to be too busy. I’m completely paraphrasing, but you get the idea. We do wear being busy as a badge of honor. Most of the time for me, it seems to be a convenient reason (not an “excuse”, God forbid) to have not completed a task. Oh, I didn’t do the dishes because I was too busy….. I didn’t return my calls and emails because I was too busy…. No, I can’t go and do something fun because…….I think we are conditioned to say it. Somehow being “busy” is a forgivable reason to avoid participating in things we may not really want to do.
There are a couple of times in my life
where I truly felt like I was so overwhelmed with a ridiculously overloaded schedule, that I really was too busy for just about everything. Seriously, it was the brink of a nervous breakdown kind of busy. That taught me the difference between being truly overwhelmed, versus the garden variety busy we constantly claim to experience.
I had decided I was going to get my Esthetician’s license.
My practice as a Licensed Electrologist of 15 years was thriving. The additional Esthetician license and skill set would round out my business. There were certain skin care products I carried that required having a licensed Esthetician on staff. My Esthetician coworker decided to leave my practice to work for a plastic surgeon full time. I was afraid the company that supplied my retail products would not sell to me anymore. As a fairly independent person, I don’t like to be beholden to anyone. Getting my license was the only way to avoid this. A friend and I concocted a plan to go to beauty school. (Think of Lucy and Ethel here). It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I am glad we persevered, but it was pretty bad.
I worked from 9:00-5:00,
and then would kick my last client out the door to race to school. Class started at 5:30 and ended at 9:45, Mon-Fri. This went on for two 16-week semesters. In order to graduate, six hundred hours of class needed to be clocked in. If I clocked in at 5:31, I’d be penalized and lose 15 minutes from the needed 600 hours. In theory, I could be one minute late each day, and in one week those collective 5 minutes would result in 1 hour and 15 minutes less towards the magical 600 hours.
We weren’t finished at the end of the second semester.
We were finished when the 600th hour was clocked in.
My late husband was not exactly on board with me on this venture, which made something that was already very difficult, nearly impossible. He thought the timing was bad, and I should wait and do it later in life. Everyday he asked me what time I’d be home, and everyday my answer did not change. I had even decided to quit after the first semester because it was just too tough.
I was starting to crack under the pressure.
Every morning I left my house by 8:00 a.m., and didn’t get home every night until nearly 11:00 p.m. This went on for eight months. There was a moderate amount of homework and projects, that although not difficult, were time consuming. Weekends were spent doing everything I did not have an opportunity to do during the week. When the next semester came around, I calculated how many more weeks I needed to attend class in order to get my 600 hours. I never missed class and was never late. Even a head splitting migraine didn’t keep me away. My tenacity had me well on my way to finishing up this class that felt like a prison sentence.
I do wish I’d been in a better frame of mind,
because there were aspects of the class that were actually fun. I met some nice people, and some strange people. My friend with whom I took the class and I became very close friends. We would secretly give less than flattering nick names to the less than nice classmates. (Again, think Lucy and Ethel here….) I did enroll into the second semester and finished the class, and managed to avoid a divorce in the process! A few weeks after I clocked in my last hour, I took my written state board exam. After that, I sat for the “hands on” practical demonstration portion of the exam. I did pass each test the first time around, and was very proud and relieved when I finally obtained my Esthetician license.
During those weekends when I was cleaning,
doing laundry, paying bills and running errands, friends and family would reach out to me to get together, or talk on the phone. I recall feeling so overwhelmed anytime someone wanted even a moment of my time. I have no illusions that my time is more precious or valuable than anyone else’s. This, however, was the most intense lack of time I’d ever experienced. Rather than try to pick and choose which events and friends were going to get my attention, I just started saying “no” to everything. I kept reminding myself that this was only for a season, not a lifetime, and soon (but not soon enough), it would be over.
I am fortunate that my family and friends
were still speaking to me by the time I clocked in my last hour of school. I’ve never spent time in jail, but I imagine the feeling of freedom to go anywhere you want and not have to keep an inflexible schedule is universal. I was finally free. For several years after school ended, my friend and I would call each other at 5:30, and simply say, “Isn’t it nice we don’t have to go to beauty school tonight?”
Please don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with the school I attended or Esthetic school in general. Many of my classmates did not have jobs, and had all day free. They had a much better experience than I did.
Fifteen years earlier I attended Electrolysis school full time.
I had to live in another city two hours away for four days a week while I attended my classes. Sunday night I drove to Modesto, and Thursday evening I drove back home. I was single and living with my parents, which made the entire process so much easier on me.
Electrolysis school was significantly more challenging academically than Esthetic school, and I had to spend way more time studying. My classmates who were also training to become Electrologists were not the greatest companions for that journey. Esthetic school had more interesting people, but I enjoyed Electrolysis school more. I think the lack of other responsibilities allowed me to immerse myself into a field that I have now spent over 30 years perfecting. I tend to be an “all in” sort of person, and do best when not pulled in too many directions.
So coming full circle on my original premise, I’ve experienced busy.
Everyone reading this that has lived a life worth talking about has experienced busy. I think “busy” as a lifestyle is a mistake. It should be more like the flu. You get it every once in a while, but you want it to go away quickly. I also think “boredom” as a lifestyle is a mistake. I am honestly never bored. There is always something I can do if free time becomes a problem. Even if I have to sit through something that is not of particular interest to me, I spend that time thinking about things I find interesting.
I think it is important to make sure being busy is equated with being productive. Even if you are busy relaxing, that is productive. Don’t be too busy to call or visit your family or friends. Don’t be too busy to take an afternoon off and spend it being creative, pampering yourself, or playing with your dog. Give up some commitments that are optional so you can spend time doing what is really important to you. Being busy doesn’t make you a saint, it just makes you tired.
When I catch myself saying I didn’t do something
because I was too busy, I think back to my beauty school days. Am I really that busy? Even though I work, and lead a very full life, most of the time the answer is no. Busy for a season is ok. I don’t think it’s a good idea to use it as an excuse to ignore people. I also think it’s wrong to act busy to make yourself appear important. People don’t care what you do, or what you accomplish; they care how you make them feel. If you tell them you’re too busy for them, by words or actions, all you’re really telling them is they are not important. I never want to be so busy that I make the people I love feel unimportant. And, I don’t like to be rude. Not even a little bit.