Overcoming the Busy-ness Bug

expat blog challege, expat issues

Our Expat Blog Challenge prompt for June is on the topic of changes. Specifically, “one way in which you’ve changed since becoming an expat.”

The other day, a friend and I were strolling our toddlers on our way to a coffee and play in the park (Coffee for adults. Park for toddlers. In that order.) and we somehow got on the topic of anxiety and the ways in which it manifests itself. Through the twists of this conversation, I thought about how culture can foster anxiety and how the culture I was enmeshed in in the U.S. seemed like a petri dish for growing that negative state of mind.

Since moving away, I’ve thought a lot about this part of the American culture, the part that worships busy-ness. In retrospect, I know that I was trapped by this mindset, and for no particular reason other than it was in the air. To be fair, I had a time consuming job, friends, dating, bills, and all the usual things that keep one busy. I always felt like I was on the run, rushing from one thing to the next, so many things perpetually left undone. I felt swamped, and so did everyone else I knew. But, the truth is that, while I was always running, I didn’t always have to be. I had great evenings with friends. I had many weekend afternoons to run errands or go to the beach. I saw movies and ate out. Yet, somehow, even these things turned into obligations in my mind. My days were always hyper scheduled and I was driven by the clock. I couldn’t locate the Off switch for the Go-Go-Go Machine. There was a certain glory to being always busy, forever half out the door and onto the next thing. Busy was a competitive sport with everyone else I met, and to lose meant … well, I actually don’t know, but I’m certain it wasn’t good. I think Americans worship busy-ness, and we feel flawed if we aren’t always on the clutch full throttle.

I feel differently here. I’ve hustled and I’ve worked hard, but my mind has been quieter. There’s not a buzz in the culture saying “keep moving or get out of the way!” Americans sometimes fault Aussies for being too laid back, and maybe there’s some truth to that, but the underlying feeling I get is that I don’t have to be busy for the sake of being busy. I might get busy naturally, but not just because it’s what we do.

I’ve been reflecting lately on the shape my days and life are in at the moment and, it feels decadent to say this, but at this moment, my life is pretty darn easygoing. It’s easy by design. Partner-in-Crime, in particular, has put in a lot of work to get us to this point where we really have time to enjoy each other and our lives. Who doesn’t want an easy life? And yet, when I tell you this, I can’t even say it without writing a caveat – “...it feels decadent to say this, but …”. I feel the need to apologize for my lack of busy-ness. It’s so hard for me to not write a follow up sentence here that explains that I do have obligations, that I do get things done. But, I’m resisting the temptation, here and in life, to apologize for being in a nice, quiet part of my life. I’m done with the worship of busy-ness, of hosting an anxious mind for no good reason. I have a fulfilling life, but not a busy one, and that is something that I never would have admitted in the U.S. elsewhere

3 thoughts on “Overcoming the Busy-ness Bug

  1. Christie

    I love the order of coffee for adults first, then park for the toddlers! And kudos for jettisoning the need to be busy for the sake of being busy.

  2. joshandjackie

    I love your thoughts here. I recently went from a decidedly “unbusy” office to the opposite extreme, and I’m beginning to wonder why I didn’t appreciate the non-busy-ness a bit more… I’m halfway between the American and Australian cultural view of busy-ness!

  3. Yvette Niesel

    I love how you said that even things you enjoy end up being “obligations.” I feel that way no matter where I am. I’m such a homebody. And I really enjoy my down-time. I love spending time with my friends and when a day ends that I’ve enjoyed fully, I still long for time to do what others consider nothing. I call it reading, napping or just sitting and watching TV. I need to explore this …

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