Preoccupied With Preoccupation

Today, I’m thinking about busyness. Is that not a word? Well, it should be.

This is probably a topic I’ve reflected on before, but today it’s exceptionally present in my mind while at my desk at work on a Monday afternoon, thinking about when to leave work.

One of the great things about my part-time job at Arte Público Press is that Marina, my boss, lets me set my own schedule. With the fall semester having ended, my working hours can be more regular and don’t have to be squeezed into the holes of a class schedule, so my hours have been more or less set as Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. Except I got here at 8:30 this a.m., so I may leave around 3:30 rather than 4:00. If I stay until 4:30, though, that would give me a full eight-hour workday, rather than just seven hours. And at four days a week, an eight-hour workday would come to 32 hours per week, rather than just 28. (That four-hour difference doesn’t seem like hardly anything to me when I lay it all out this way…)

It’s somewhat tempting to just stay for another hour. It’s just one more hour, my mind says. What’s just one more?

One more is a lot.

One more hour can mean the difference between getting stuck in stop-and-go traffic on my way home or not. The difference between getting home before dark or after. Last week it meant getting to the bank before closing or not, or getting to Dylan’s in time to take Penny for her evening walk or not. Today it could mean getting home in time to run up to the church and do a little work there or not.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like much here. But to me, it can feel like much.

Then, take into account that that one hour each day adds up to four hours each week. Let’s see what I could do with four hours…

  • Watch one or two French movies, and cross that off my list
  • Finish Naranjo the Muse and update progress on Goodreads
  • Finish the Christmas gift I’m hoping to finish in time to give this year (can’t say who it’s for, in case I don’t finish!)
  • Update my fanfic, or possibly write and post a Christmas-y one-shot
  • Make some headway on organizing and putting back on the shelves the 900+ books for the church
  • Fill out the paperwork I have to do for an upcoming visit to a new doctor (I’m not sick, no worries)
  • Sleep

Just to name a few, of course.

I may have previously mentioned that I live approximately an hour away from where I work and go to school. Less than an hour without traffic, more than an hour with heavy traffic, which I frequently catch nowadays. I know driving relaxes some people, or just has no effect on others. Not me. I get tired and bored driving, so spending ~eight hours each week—minimum—in commute really wears on me.

So, busyness. Notice that everything I’ve mentioned up to this point involves me being busy in some way, shape, or form. Even driving and sleeping constitute some form of preoccupation.

I think the culture I live in is very obsessed with being preoccupied. Preoccupied with preoccupation—see, a preoccupation in itself, and I’d better stop saying “preoccupied” and “preoccupation” now before I lose you. Americans glorify busyness. Working 40+ hours each week, having a family, keeping a pristine house, being able to answer emails while on a conference call while working out… *exhale* College degree, six-figure salary, the corner office with the view, and even better if you can do all of that before your 40th birthday…maybe even your 30th. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, this seems fairly unrealistic. Not impossible, not unheard of, but unrealistic.

I know I don’t want to be busy 24/7, but I find myself wondering if putting in 28 hours each week at work is enough when I’m allowed to work up to 40. Would it be better for me, for my bank account, and for my employer, if I put in more time?

No.

It would not.

Because my busyness directly affects me and then that affects what I can offer to those who need me. I think it’s safe to assume that Marina would rather me do my work well and correctly the first time around, than she would be able to just erase all the tasks on the white board above my desk. Quality of work put out over quantity, every time. And in order to be able to offer quality, I have to take care of myself, too, and sometimes that means just not being so busy.

So I left work at 3:36 today, and I made a couple of phone calls and an appointment, and I did some dishes, baked brownies for our holiday office lunch tomorrow, and am finishing this blog post while catching up on a couple episodes of Gilmore Girls. (The closer I get to finishing these original seasons, the closer I get to watching the revival. Yay!) Soon, I’d like to paint my nails and catch up on some reading. Still busy, but it also helps to be busy with things I want to do rather than just the things I need to do. When that fails, sometimes it’s better to just do nothing at all, even for only a moment.

Actually, since I’ve been thinking about it all day, I’m going to go put my legs up the wall, and do exactly that. XO