As I drove away from my interview with my new school, I called my Mom to process. I had nothing but good things to say, but by the time I put my car into park, I had worked myself into a near breakdown. Why?
I was afraid I wouldn’t be busy enough.
I heard myself explaining the guilt I was already feeling about maybe taking a job that would give me free time; a full-time job that would help me move in the direction of my passions and values at that. I caught myself mid-thought and realized something was very wrong with my frame of mind.
Earlier this year, I read this article espousing a similar sentiment, but it came flooding back to me in that moment. I have already been trying to replace the word “busy” with “full.” But I found, over the course of the last few months, that I often felt like I had lost control over how I spent my time, and in those moments, busy seemed like a much better descriptor. Worse, just as the author explains, being busy had come to define my existence and my worth in the world.
After I pulled myself together, I found myself reflecting on how I got to that moment. So much of my life was structured to encourage business; this idea that we are what (and how much) we do was modeled to me over and over again. My parents were always working. I was the kid who was dropped off as the first staff member arrived at the school, and the last one picked up from after school activities. I didn’t (and don’t) see it as a bad thing, I knew what they were doing was important, they were fulfilling their responsibilities. What’s more, the school I attended for my formative years had, in essence, one rule: stay busy. We could choose almost any work we wanted, and do it in whatever group or seating arrangement met our fancy, but we needed to be doing something. In college, I found myself spending nearly all my time with people who competed in what I called “the busy wars.” Even at this young adult stage, we were defining ourselves by what we were involved in and how much time we had to ourselves. We competed with each other, in subtle and some not-so-subtle ways, all to prove that we had the most on our plates but could still be succesful.
Those times in college called my attention to the plague I suffered from and I started to do my best to stay out of the wars. I was fairly successful all the way through graduate school, only choosing activities and responsibilities which I enjoyed, had interest in, and supported my long term goals. I had more fun in graduate school than I had in a long time, regularly going to yoga classes, playing on a volleyball team, and spending time cooking with friends. I thought that I had carried at least some of my new found freedom from being busy into my job. But after hearing myself tell my mother, who I regularly encourage to spend less time working, that I was truly concerned about being viewed as lazy or taking the easy way out for working a full time job, I realized that the problem has been lingering within me all along.
When I thought about this idea that attending Montessori influenced my need to be busy, I realized Dr. Montessori would detest that notion. She would recognize and encourage the exact opposite, giving every individual space to reflect, think, and choose how to fill their time in a way that is fulfilling for them. The business that I know, and that permeates our society each day, is rarely fulfilling. And in our desperate need to compensate, we take on more and more, slowly losing any control that we had over how we spend our time.
I can’t commit to eliminating business from my life completely, or even necessarily taking more time to sit and do absolutely nothing. But I do hope that this reflection can help me to be more conscious of what I’m allowing to comprise my business; that I can take some of this new found free time and do things that truly fulfill me, making me 100% honest when I share that my life is full.