I am an investor. And so are you.
Every day, we buy into things. We buy into people. Investment of any type is a difficult task and a formidable foe. We invest our trust and our time—sometimes our money and often our dignity and devotion—into a task or a team or a thing. When we are feeling overtly bold or unwaveringly daring or irreparably dim-witted, we invest in a person. Sometimes we get it right and often times we don’t. Everyday is made up of a relentless amount of investments in things. Just things. Events. Meetings and conversations. Classes, practices, workouts. Papers and tests. Just simply things.
The concept is not difficult or unfamiliar to the imagination. Our days are made up of ceaseless transitions from one thing to the next, from the moment we rise with (or before) the sun until the moment we collapse hollowly onto overturned bed sheets late at night. There is a unanimous and echoing appeal for more hours in a day, but with this need for a longer count of time, we measure each day by counting things—lots of things. Too many things.
There is a definite and dismal assumption that the gravitation and inclination toward spreading your investments widely is a good thing. More tasks are encouraged. The more time filled, the better. We invest everywhere with everyone we know, and in pressure situations, we overinvest. We make promises for deeper ventures that, by virtue of expired minutes and depleted energy, remain empty and worthless. Our investments are invaluable, but should we spread ourselves too thin across too many outlets, we, too, lose our richness. This inclination to invest everywhere is the indelible, deep-seated and falsely respected glorification of “busy.”
I am both enthralled and disgusted by the glorification of being constantly and incessantly busy. The abominable destruction associated with the assumption that a schedule of events commands character is abhorring, a detriment to personality and far from altruistic for the individual. A constant monotony of work or complaints is hypnotic and contagious. It is a recipe for breakdown and a glorification that is no doubt unjustified. We associate busy people with driven people, when there is hardly a correlation between the two. We think that in order to be successful and motivated and committed wholeheartedly, commitment must come at the expense of spare time. It must come at the compromise of momentary, necessary breaths of fresh air. It must be the unwavering choice above all other things. We have to do something, anything, every moment, or we aren’t doing enough.
We are told to find a passion. Something to do. Those who lack passion are rectified in due time, and the inability to find a cause or skill about which we feel insurmountably zealous is deemed a failure. A friend of mine once convinced me that he believed in a definitive nobility that comes with being really, truly good at something. Something specific. One specific thing. Just any single thing to be great at. It could be playing music or playing chess. It could be hitting a baseball. A curveball. A fastball. It could be writing long, overly-didactic, flowery worded opinion columns. Doing one thing, being dedicated to that one thing, putting 10 thousand hours into that one thing—that was noble. And giving anything less wasn’t noble, wasn’t enough. Wouldn’t be worth it.
I bought into this idea, this distinction that concentration and dedication indicate nobility. Definite and unwavering commitment is both empowering and fleeting, especially in situations adverse or uncomfortable in nature. I respect the need for a passion and the indelible fortitude that comes with allegiance to something, but I fear that we too frequently feel pressure to spread ourselves too thin. We do too much, and our balancing act is unraveling slowly at its worn and unsubstantial seams. We concentrate on our passion to no end, and when we think we have done enough, we do something else. We spread ourselves too thin and leave no room to breathe. Every minute is clocked out and measured, minutes measuring things and things turning into full days.
Over the weekend, I drove some of the streets around campus. I sat fully upright, close to my steering wheel, hands clenched tight, shoulders tense with anxiety. I didn’t know why. I didn’t have work to do or somewhere to be or anything on my mind, but I felt like I was late for something. But I had nothing. In that moment, I rolled down my windows and turned off the music coming from my stereo. I sat back and loosened my grip and unshrugged my knotted and tense shoulders.
I wasn’t busy, so I stopped acting like I was. And that is something to glorify.
Ashley Camano is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Friday. You can follow Ashley on Twitter @camano4chron.