As my career began to grow, I started to notice a shift happening in my conversations. Whether it was with my friends, colleagues, or family, the first word that would automatically come out of my mouth when someone asked how I was doing was “busy.” It was a word that was regurgitated easily and tasted bittersweet when it left my lips.
Saying I was “busy” allowed others to know that I was in demand — that I was a career woman who was constantly on the go and was making her dreams a reality. Working long hours in the day resulted in a badge of honor and scheduling coffee dates and phone calls with friends far in advance became the norm; work became a priority that overtook every aspect of my life. I was in a desperate search to find meaning and purpose and I bet all the chips on my career.
Over time saying I was busy felt like I’d swallowed poison; it was a cop-out to easily relate to someone when they’d ask how I was doing or to give myself permission to complain about my schedule — the one I worked so hard for. After some time, I was beginning to become allergic to this lifestyle and wanted to know if anyone else was feeling the same way — or was it completely normal for women in their late 20s and early 30s to feel burnt out after a decade or so of saying yes to every opportunity that was handed to them? Apparently, I was not alone in what I was experiencing.
In a society where women are breaking glass ceilings left and right, you would think we would’ve begun to build a better relationship with our ambitions. Yet it seems we have established a world where “working hard” and “being busy” are synonymous with each other. According to The Cut, there’s a wave of Millenial women who are feeling adrift with their lives and careers. Many are dealing with the realization that their careers are not the be-all of what they’ve hoped them to be. For instance, if they got that raise, that job title, or to live in that certain city, everything else in their lives should’ve fallen into place. Instead, there seems to be an epidemic where women rely on their careers to fuel their self-worth; their jobs defined their identity and became the only pertinent thing in their lives. However, life shouldn’t be about constantly being busy and stressing out over accomplishing your goals. Yes, having a career you’re proud of is vital to feeling happy, but it’s just a small piece of the puzzle.
It’s time to stop putting energy into things that no longer serve us — that no longer contribute to our well-being if we’re not going to find time to replenish it. There are other ways to define our lives with non-external things that will give us purpose and meaning. We tend to beat ourselves up when we don’t believe we are where we should be at a certain time of our lives — i.e. if we’re not a CEO of a company by age 30, then we’ve failed. We strive to emulate what success looks like to society by filling every nook and cranny in our 16-hour day with things to take us to the next level; to become the better versions of ourselves. But just like what Christine — ahem — Lady Bird said in Lady Bird, “But what if this is the best version?” Instead of being in search of these highlights to guide us, we should just look within ourselves to seek fulfillment.
Because what if success isn’t about having a million dollars in the bank, climbing the corporate ladder, or having over 10k followers on Instagram? What if success means going after your dreams and having the time to call your friends, too? Why can’t we have both? Truthfully, if you can’t find time to hang out with your friend, call your mom, use your vacation time, or to simply go see a movie, then the problem might not be your job or your boss — it could be you. This is the time to learn from your failures, to find happiness with self-fulfilling activities and loved ones.
Oprah says it best: “Your real job in life is to figure out what you are called to do. And you use a job to figure out what the calling is… until you find out what it is that gives your life purpose and meaning.” Ultimately, your busyness shouldn’t define who you are. Your life is not more glamorous if you’re constantly behind a computer screen or answering emails. This year, enrich your life with tasks that will give you joy. Take that vacation, hang out with your mom for no reason at all, or simply say “no” more often. Either way, don’t fall into the trap that you constantly have to be busy to live a successful life because your life is what you make of it, and how you choose to define it is completely up to you.