Busy: A Four-Letter Word

Being an adult is exhausting. It doesn’t help that we’re all still new at it, and being in your twenties means your peer group is a weird hodge-podge of those who seem to have their shit together and those who are still sorting it out. In this stage of life, age has been rendered meaningless. It used to be an equalizer, all of us with mostly the same expectations and life experience. But no twenties look the same.

My 25 was two under 5 with a rocky marriage and sporadic contracting work. Kim’s 25 is the end of law school and a big move to New York City. And my cousin’s 25 will be finishing up his undergrad, living with 5 roommates and figuring out the future at his own pace.

We may all be experiencing life differently, but the thing we all have in common?

We’re all busy.

Everyone is busy – you’re busy, I’m busy, my cousin in college is busy. The days of ‘nothing to do’ are firmly behind all of us, since we’re grown-ups now.
Our busies may look different, but they’re all valid.

Just because I chose to have 2 kids doesn’t mean my ‘busy’ of school drop-offs and doctor’s appointments is any more ‘busy’ than someone with no kids whose evenings are taken up with classes or social commitments.

The takeaway here?

It’s time to stop using your ‘busyness’ as an excuse.

The older I get, the more infuriating I’m finding the phrase ‘I’m busy.’ I don’t mean when people are telling me they’re stressed because they’re busy; that I can listen to all day long, since I’m nosy and love hearing about other people’s lives. Instead, I mean when it’s used by people to get out of things they clearly don’t want to do, or things they want to pawn off on you instead.

This was a recurring problem within my own marriage when I was a stay-at-home mom. Husband would often assume I had nothing to fill my hours with all day long, so he would ‘helpfully’ pile task after task onto my plate because he was ‘too busy’ to get to them. It was infuriating because it downplayed what I was doing and wordlessly insinuated I wasn’t busy at all. I find that this frustration carries over into friends and colleagues when I feel I’m being given the same treatment.

‘I’m busy’ as a way to get someone else to do something
for you (or to get out of doing something you promised you’d do) implies they’re not. This isn’t to say you can never use this as an explanation – sometimes you really are way busier than normal, and there’s not time to give the entire breakdown of your jam-packed week.

But if you find yourself saying ‘I’m busy’ again and again to the same people, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your priorities and what’s actually important to you.

It’s okay to be straightforward with people. Instead of saying ‘I can’t, I’m busy,’ you can just be honest: ‘I’ve lost interest in this activity,’ ‘I’ve met someone else,’ ‘I never even liked book clubs, Karen.’

Most normal, well-adjusted people will understand and appreciate the candor. Even if their feelings are initially hurt, it’s a lot easier to move past an honest statement than being inexplicably ghosted time and time again.

Or, worse still, feeling like the person who keeps insisting ‘I’m busy, you just handle it/we’ll reschedule on my timeline/I’ll let you know when I feel like being your friend again’ is just jerking you around. Sometimes, there’s no coming back from that one.

So consider replacing dismissive ‘I’m busy’s with more concrete, compassionate answers, and put yourself in your friends’ shoes. Yeah, you’re busy, but they probably are too. Maybe instead of shutting them down with sharp ‘I’m busy’s, consider asking them how they’re doing or making a sympathetic comment – ‘I’m so busy, you must be too! Growing up is a scam, let’s Peter Pan this bitch.’

What other ways can we handle the ‘I’m busy’ epidemic? Leave a comment below and I’ll try to read it, but who knows, I’m just so busy.

image courtesy of ferenc

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