My definition of the term ‘busy’ has changed a lot in the past eight or so years. I mean, not to the point that I now use it interchangeably with the word ‘socket wrench’ or something, but rather how much I have to be doing to consider myself busy.
Take high school, for example – looking back, I have no idea how I pulled that off. Each morning I’d get up at something like 6 for jazz band and then spend seven or eight hours in that concrete and asbestos soul crushing labyrinth, or more, depending on if there was a rehearsal after school. On weekends there was a pretty good chance I’d have a band competition or speech and debate tournament, and let’s not forget about homework. What I’m describing here was just an ordinary week, with midterms/finals far out of sight. I mean, I couldn’t even make the claim that I was ‘too busy’ for a girlfriend, because people far more involved than I still found the time to bone and experiment with drugs between AP study sessions.
I guess I’m just shocked that I didn’t bitch about it more – I mean, trust me, I did bitch about high school a lot, but in retrospect the amount of bitching I did was nowhere near proportional to the amount of work there was to bitch about. And bitching is kind of my thing; I take it pretty seriously. For reference, please see everything I’ve ever written on here. Maybe I just couldn’t see the activity forest for the stress trees.
Because if I learned one thing in the course of my educational career, it’s that I hate being constantly occupied. A lot of my friends were very much the opposite – they’d load up on academic and extracurricular commitments to the point of mental breakdown come finals week, because, in their own (paraphrased and poorly remembered) words, “I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m unoccupied.”
Whenever I heard that line I’d always catch myself wondering if these friends knew about alcohol and video games, or if these were some sort of secret between me and other proud slackers the world over. Either way, what I came to realize in school was that if I couldn’t spend at least 40% of my day farting around and accomplishing nothing of any use to anyone, I’d start to get a little cranky.
The story was the same in college – even when my workload was significantly less than that of some of my friends, I still found myself burning out quickly. I remember winter term of my senior year as a haze of video editing, checkout room idiots, and spinning Mac OSX pinwheels occupying seemingly every moment of my spare time, the looming prospect of a nervous breakdown held at bay by cheap whiskey and 7-11 taquitos – and that was the term that I took 16 credits, otherwise known as the average number of credits taken by University of Oregon students. Me being relieved and eager for a break at graduation was the academic equivalent of a fat man sweating bullets and wheezing as he reaches the top of a short staircase, eager for his next cheeseburger.
In the past ten days, I’ve driven to and from Reno, cranked out newsletters continuously for the screenplay competition I’m working for, PA’d on a no-budget indie film shoot in Orange County, and maintained my usual three day a week internship schedule – which, now that I look at it on the page, doesn’t seem like that much, but it sure feels like it, at least given the typical slovenly pace at which I live my life.
What’s surprising to me is that in spite of the fact that I’ve been going with essentially no break for so long (by my standards), I don’t really feel all that burned out. I mean, sure, I’ve been sacrificing sleep and timely blog updates, and sure, I’ve been keeping my wits about me with slightly more expensive whiskey and 7-11 taquitos, but this is really the first time I can remember that I don’t strictly consider stress to be a bad thing. I’m actually sort of enjoying being constantly occupied.
I think the answer is that I just really didn’t like school. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the awesome stuff that came with school (friends, football, 50 cent tacos), and if I got a cosmic do-over on my life I’d do it all again, but by and large the school parts of school just weren’t for me. I’m not a fan of the classroom; I don’t consider myself an academia nut.*
*The more lame puns I make, the less you’ll miss my blog the next time I’m late.
And I don’t want to sound like one of those douchebags who excuses his ignorance by adjusting his wide brimmed Yankees cap and saying, ‘Yeah, I learn by doing’, because I don’t even really consider what I’m doing right now to be learning – if anything, I’ve quit learning in favor of doing, and I like that a lot better because personally I feel more productive when I’m out doing things instead of just learning how to do them.
And then I also don’t want to sound like I’m coming out against learning, because I’m not – I recognize that I am learning things every day through small samplings of trial and gigantic amounts of error – it’s just that I’ve never been the guy who got all jazzed about learning things just for the sake of knowing them, hence why if I meet a Spanish speaking geologist I’ll be completely unable to understand him no matter what language he’s talking in.
They say that if you do something you love for a living you’ll never work a day in your life. By that logic I’ve definitely been working these past few days, but I think what makes it enjoyable is that it gives me a chance to watch people who actually are doing what they love, which helps me remember that it’s possible, even for those of us who opted out of AP classes in favor of more Grand Theft Auto time.
Truman Capps hasn't washed his socks in God knows how long.