Feeling Busy? Three Words: Location, Location, Location.
By Leslie Rapparlie
Not long ago, it was easy to create versions of yourself. This is me at work. This is me on vacation. This is me being a parent. This is me as a student. It was easy to separate one role from another and cultivate the various sides of our incredibly complex personalities. But today, we’re all being pushed to have a single persona through our constant and ubiquitous connectivity—smartphones, laptops, work computers, all connected to the same Facebook page, email account, and twitter feed. What does this mean for our “vacations” from everyday life? Why do so many of us head to Eastern Long Island when we don’t really eliminate the same tweets, chirps, and dings that we hear all day long at the office? What is it that makes us need to be busy no matter where we are?
Tim Kreider, in his recent New York Times article “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” suggests that we feel immense anxiety and guilt when we are not doing something to promote our work or when we might— gasp—take a quiet, unplugged moment for ourselves. Jordan Weissman, in his Atlantic article “Why Only Yuppies Feel Busy: An Economic Theory,” attributes the complaints about time, or lack there of, to relative wealth—you either don’t have enough money; or if you do, the multitude of options that open to you require you to feel as though you don’t have enough time. Both Kreider and Weissman are touching upon extremely relevant, yet new, issues that have resulted from the shift in ways of living that the Internet and other technological advances have created. In all of this discussion, I began to wonder, is it also possible that busyness could also be more prevalent in some spaces than others? Or, perhaps with some groups of people more than others? For example, the necessity of being occupied hits many of us more in New York City than on Southampton’s beaches, with other elite executives than with family, on an Avenue more than in Central Park, at work with colleagues than at a coffee shop with strangers. So, could it be that a location or specific people impact our desire to be busy?
As we all know, place is a central part of how we define who we are. Why else would “where are you from?” be one of the most common questions we ask of someone we’ve just met? Where we are, where we grew up, where we now call home, and what those places mean to us, are all pieces of information we utilize to shape our understanding of self. In his book Wisdom Sits in Places, Keith Basso touches upon this concept. He says that certain localities prompt transformation, imagination, retrospection, curiosity, and remembrance and have done so for many cultures throughout time (Basso 5). Of course, a large part of this “place-making” or “place-understanding” is sparked by the landscape and physicality of a space. For many people,Eastern Long Islandwith its wide-open spaces and gorgeous vistas, offers an getaway from the compact streets and hectic avenues that promote the busy trap of the “real world.” But is it the actual space that dictates the amount of busyness? Or, is it the people whom we are surrounded by, our community, that creates the need to be busy?
Before answering that question, I would be remiss to argue that for everyone theHamptonsoffer escape. For each person, this place (or any place for that matter) means something different. For some, it is a place of work, where weekends are not filled with relaxation but rather with daily labor. For others, it is a place of adventure full of surfing, kayaking, tennis, and paddle boarding. For even others, it is a social place to meet friends, go to dinners, read books, sit by the pool—a second home base. Regardless, places that we love are meaningful to us because they make something inside of us calm, at ease, and whole. Basso argues that every place allows us to learn about our self and those around us (34).
But maybe Basso is not going far enough. Maybe it’s not place that gives us community, but community that makes us feel as though we have a place in this world. It’s easy to notice that particular places create cultures that encourage or dissuade busyness. Additionally, responding to texts and having a barrage of email to answer makes us feel important, loved, and necessary. So, maybe it’s not where you are that makes you want to be busy, but rather what other people around you consider normal. If one person pulls out their phone at the dinner table, the other people sitting there are more likely to do the same. Looking important like this “serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy…[and] in demand” (Kreider). For it is indisputable that one of the most basic and most fulfilling human desires is to have other people know who we are. If everyone around you is constantly occupied or in a virtual world, you will feel isolated and search for someone else or some other place with which to connect.