On this, the eve of my half-life, I once again find myself attempting to shoo away adulthood with a hand not-yet-arthritic-but-most-certainly-on-the-path-to-it. I play freeze tag with seriousness until I’m cold and stiff and moving not quite at a tortoise’s pace before bursting forth with a giggle and slapping it gently on the bum. I procrastinated through my youth until it ran out and now I engage with all of those kiddie things while pretending to behave upstandingly in an adult world roughly helmed by children. My secret identity is ignominiously infantile and my humor is pleasantly prurient. I have four personae, all of which are tied together at the navel, twisting off each other’s air supply while grasping for attention. Pick me! No, me! And the others sneak through the door behind the chosen one’s shadow, but they’re so obviously there that it’s funny, and no one seems to mind too much – or at least they tolerate the pageant. All four like to dress up, then clean that mess up.
I never thought I’d be here and now, over there and far away; never figured I’d make it to this time, but who does? It’s still strange to say the word “wife”, to say the word “forever”, to think that battlefields are in my backyard and the moss is often soft enough to sleep upon. My crushes are now my colleagues and there are cats strewn every-which-way as I walk from room to room between brain breaks on old floorboards that squeak with each step. My will has real names on it; my thinking becomes more open and rigid all at the same time. My patterns have gone plaid. These long-germinating dreams, all rooted in fantasies and adventures and tiny, tiny handwriting in all capital letters made it this way. It wasn’t her nor him, but how not to be a drain, or be a pain, but to be true past the end. My chemicals are mixed up and sometimes it’s insufferable, but I paint it out and it leaves me like a miasmic exhale as the cavalcade of colors connects all those synapses and cradles me in its huemanity. So I don’t talk about it much.
Tomorrow I will be different, but still a baby, still a beginner, still a novice. The things I say are pointed and polemical and I cringe in the mirror sometimes as the lines get thicker and the colors slowly, infinitesimally fade away, my greatest ungrounding and undoing. There is still so much room for being bigger and better and brighter, and I’m so sincerely very sorry to have not been more of what my potential had proposed, and for all of the other times I have disappointed. I am especially sorry for those. But somehow I am still loved by exactly the right people, and I have given much of that which I have promised and I have no regrets (yet) and hope never to have so. The fear of death should grow as the shadows go long and this is what I most find amusing; that sickness and goodbyes are assured but I am less terrified now because every day I think that if I were to go long tomorrow I would still be the luckiest whatever that ever rolled a handful of those pretty polyhedrals.
This eve, just before the moment of my half-life, I am the same as I will be tomorrow, but young. Tomorrow I will be the same and old, and will probably act the same but younger, I warn you of this. I will not kick and scream while crossing that divide, but I will indeed tease and play and titter, and may ask you to come along for a little while, and if I do not, I hope that you will remind me to. Nothing has really changed.
I recently read a very good article about the (especially) American need to be busy all the time, and to make sure to let as many people as possible know about it. Aside from musing upon idleness as a historical virtue amidst suggestions that perhaps some of the best ideas have come from the least busy people, the author of this piece conjures some pretty powerful revelations that hit me quite close to home. I suppose I could be one of those busy people described in the article, and as much as the urge bubbles up to defend my own busyness with the assertion that all of my tasks, plans, responsibilities are not, in fact, established in spite of the flaccidity of their impacts or exposing the core emptiness of my life in their absence, it’s entirely possible that this is the (Sisyphean) case. But I’m far too busy these days to engage in pop-psychology in addition to all the other things on my schedule.
There was certainly a point not so very long ago at which I equated my time occupied with external responsibilities to my very relevance in the world of adulthood, independence, and competency. It was a period of proving, simultaneously to parents, peers, and self. I’m not quite sure how long it lasted, or how much of it still exists. But consciously, both then and now, expressing my high level of commitment to the many tasks and projects to which I’ve subscribed has never been intended to be a boast nor a complaint. I like being busy because I have great amounts of enthusiasm and the energy to spread around to numerous different processes. I love multi-tasking and building, organizing and learning. I make list of things to do and then lists of those lists. I fall to pieces with joy every time I walk into The Container Store. And I love helping others and the feeling of coming through on the things I have promised, no matter who the recipient. I am indeed addicted to creating.
In the Internet-(mal)nourished, short-attention-span world we now live in, it’s incredibly easy to over-engage and overcommit. On an individual basis, our reach is now seemingly limitless, our abilities omnipotent, our impact global. This universal empowerment has most certainly incited a measure of universal competition: to write, to work, to make. Every voice is Divine Right; every opinion counts – or, strangely, is expected to. It’s no wonder that everyone proudly touts their commitments and responsibilities. Busy is important. Busy is popular. Busy is purpose, even though, as the columnist states, that’s all a lie. “Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.”
Me, I am eager to share the things with which I’m busy, and I comprehensively enjoy hearing about yours, even if I don’t always fully grasp the magnitude or the impact of them on your life. And if you catch me begging off real communication on the account of general, nebulous busyness, feel free to call me on my shit. I’m listening.
Even if proudly being busy is a foible or worse, does it always have to be a cover-up? Must it by nature be an impediment? And to what – isn’t engaging with experiences the very qualifier of a life well-lived? To take this a bit farther, even but a moment musing on motivation belies Kreider’s thesis: sequestering works for him, because he is a writer who needs sequestering to be productive. Me, I need to be behind the counter helping three customers at the same time. I like to feel the pressure of academic deadlines and crafting presentations and reviewing books. I thrive on doing a hundred things at once, and my days feel productive only when I’ve skimmed the edges of a wide array of tasks, senses, and interests. Days off don’t exist, because days off are not fun for me. I want breadth much more than I require depth.
My perfect cocktail is a healthy shot of accomplishment in a stiff glass of initiative. What’s most important to me is balancing work and play a little bit every day, especially as play was often frowned upon while growing up. So I bought a game store, and I’ve worked my ass off there for two decades, while playing and helping others play. My university career was woven in and around this, all at the same time. It’s clear now: I need to be busy. I thrive when I’m busy.
If there is something at all that is getting covered up with all this…living, it’s the fact that, with forty years approaching in my headlights, I am indeed squarely in the throes of my own mid-life crisis: the realization that there just isn’t enough time to do all of the amazing things I enjoy doing. Quite simply, there are just too many things that I enjoy, and that is my curse. That’s what I’m hiding behind my busyness.
There are too many games to play; too many books to read; too many songs to hear; too many cities to visit; too many friends to make; too many words to learn; too many miniatures to paint; too many colors to feel; too many foods to try; and never enough warm smiles from my wife, no matter how much time there is or ever could be, in this life and every.
Not a curse, but a blessing.