For Generation-Y, there is no greater feeling in the world than being busy. Busyness makes the workday go by faster, your Happy Hour beers taste better and it makes your nights out the memorable celebrations that they deserve to be.
Heck, keeping busy is the best reminder that the harsh economy and it's stingy hiring decline hasn't claimed you as another victim. If you are busy, life — your life — is moving forward.
But too many of us are too busy: a two-jobs-an-internship-a-full-academic-course-load-the-presidency-of-multiple-student-organizations-and-weekend-volunteer-work kind of busy.
Not to forget the added pressures that come with paying rent, supporting your family financially and cutting down on that student loan debt before the ink on your outstanding balance has had the chance to dry.
You're a hustler, homie. I get it. I support the struggle. I do. But our generation is made up of an army of terminators operating on little-to-no sleep, high quantities of caffeine and god knows whatever else our “personal pharmacists” (READ: dealers) can procure for us to get through the week.
We are the overqualified, the under slept, the oversexed, the underpaid, the high-strung, the depressed, the neurotic, the well rounded, the romantically broken, the technologically and chemically dependent, the career conscious and the cautiously optimistic.
We are the generation that twice elected Barack Obama to the United States Presidency, and yet we are also projected to have a lower quality of life than our parents in the coming decades. We are Generation Y; damn it, and we've got a lot going on and a lot to live up to. Staying busy is our rallying cry: the way we command respect from our elders and prove our worth out in the world.
If love is a battlefield, the morning commute for a Gen-Y-er looks like the beaches of Normandy. Every second, from the moment we wake in the morning, to the moment our heads hit the pillow at night, proves significant for our individual advancement, and must be fully maximized for our benefit. There are too many others out there grinding for the same gains, particularly amongst our own peers. But how often do we even, actually, relax?
No, not “relax” in the form of going to the same overcrowded, overpriced bars that play the same five songs so loudly you can't even hold a simple conversation. And not “relax” by going to the MoMA or Statue of Liberty AGAIN with the same group of nameless, faceless Midwestern kids who think they're adding a bit of culture to their lives by going to school in New York instead of Chicago.
When was the last time you actually relaxed? How many times have you stepped back from your life, from everything you had strewn across your desk or written in your iPhone's datebook, and recognized the presence of complete nothingness going on all around you?
When is the last time you can even remember being completely alone, without people, noise or technology to bother you? You probably have to think on that one, don't you? Let's see: Your alarm clock woke you up, you stuck yourself under a spray shower, turned on SportsCenter while you were getting dressed and then took in the daily symphony that is walking around the city during morning rush.
You're not even at school or work yet and you haven't had a quiet moment to yourself — and you're by yourself. This is the cost of keeping busy: the more you participate in the world at large, the more the world at large participates with you.
People and noise are everywhere; they always have been, but the more you do with your life, the more you lessen the breaks between different people and different noises crossing your path. Within those breaks, however short they may be, the world allows you to step away, take a breath and clear your head.
During those breaks, the world lets you accept that life is happening, regardless of how many jobs you have or what grade you ultimately receive in your Media Ethics class.
You're not stopping to smell the roses, but rather understanding that something as simple and meaningless to the world At large as a rose could exist without your planting it into the ground. Perhaps no one understood these moments quite like author Robert Frost, whose poem “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” explores the beauty of living in such a moment.
Frost's narrator acknowledges that he has “miles to go before [he] sleep[s],” i.e. he still has work left to accomplish, but to the chagrin of his horse's shaking bells, he stops to take in the quiet and beautiful moment he is fortunate to have, watching the snow fall in the middle of the night. Life is happening in and beyond the woods and Frost's narrator both realizes and makes peace with that sentiment.
In that moment, he is truly relaxed. You won't have these moments waking up earlier than your roommates or going to sleep earlier at night, or taking a walk through Central Park instead of grabbing lunch; doing so would miss the point.
You can't will these moments to happen, for if you tried, you'd simply be adding more things to your already packed schedule. Those breaks in civilization, those golden moments of silence, must happen naturally — but you have to recognize they're happening in the first place.
Bill San Antonio | Elite.