Are you crazy busy or just lonely?

This is Ryan O’Connell on the pervasiveness of loneliness and alienation, which sometimes is connected to being overly busy:

It’s taboo to be lonely. It’s taboo to find yourself all alone in a generation that prides itself on being busy all the time. But guess what? It’s happening. You’re lonely, you’re alone, and it feels like it always does. All the Netflix queues and tweets can’t save you from this familiar feeling of alienation.

It’s comforting in a way, it’s comforting to know that no matter how much things change, you can always go back to this place of feeling restless and disconnected. You’re working 60 hours a week, you’re getting drinks with the people you adore, and you’re still finding yourself isolated between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, you’re certainly happier now than you were last summer, but occasionally you find yourself exactly where you started: Looking for human connection and coming up short…

Sometimes being busy only magnifies the loneliness. Sometimes you’re better off just being honest with yourself and lying in bed. Be bored. Enjoy the boredom. It’s so rare these days. Stop trying to fill every second of everyday.

The NY Times published a thoughtful Op-Ed, The Busy Trap, that made some good points about how Americans, in particular, pride ourselves on being busy.

Busyness 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, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

Personally, I feel most alive when I’m working hard, and when I’m so exhausted I don’t have time to think about whether I’m lonely or not. By devoting myself to writing and growing as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that I literally cannot work all the time. When I’m not busy, I am sometimes quite lonely.

But sometimes the company of others is more lonely. The same is true of boredom. I learn a great deal about my habits and patterns when I’m bored.

The most valuable lesson of my loneliness and boredom has been learning to cultivate genuine connection with my friends, relatives. This is why I disagree with generalizations that claim that the Internet or too much TV alienates us. I’m more interested in how to make friends with my loneliness, since it’s a natural emotion, just like love.

Celebrating independence

Independence Day has always been my favorite holiday. My most cherished memories of summer center around going down to South Street Seaport with my mother or one of my best friends in New York to watch the fireworks. Something about the multitude of colors streaking and blazing across a clear night sky, a symphony blasting, the crowd buzzing as our heads lifted to catch the most beautiful spectacle of them all.

I fell in love with it because I am a patriot, but more because of what it symbolizes. The freedom to be happy. The freedom to choose your story.

Every other major celebration in our culture is about couples and families. But the Fourth of July seems to celebrate the individual in us all, and what we each choose to do with that.

Even though freedom isn’t free, it’s still glorious, full of potential – a lovely, seductive notion in a world that asks all of us to be more like everyone else, to fall in line and to trade our independence for the safety of belonging.

I started thinking about this when I read this Thought Catalog post, The Single Person’s Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we’ve put ourselves out there on OkCupid and in bars; that 50 First Dates isn’t just the title of some godawful romcom (JK love it), but something we’ve actually attempted in the pursuit of happiness; that we have been subjected to unanswered text messages, and insane exes, and people who pen really great online dating profiles but turn out to be mute or to hate their mothers in unnatural, character-defining ways; and whenever we’re faced with the prospect of settling down with someone we despise to fulfill the long established expectation that we’re young and attractive but not young and attractive forever so could all you single people get it together and quit sleeping around? — it is our right, our duty, to be like… yo, have you seen the divorce rate lately? I mean, we’re trying our hardest out here to find someone we like enough to introduce to our friends, really we are, this doesn’t make us bad people but rather it makes us discerning people who just haven’t found their ‘missing piece’ yet, to quote Shel Silverstein, — And via this document, we come together to explain our non-relationship status and how like, being single is not akin to being misguided or damaged or some nefarious Hitler-type character. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

We were, at some point, in unhealthy relationships that we ended in hopes for a better tomorrow — one in which our friends and families do not gossip endlessly about how toxic our relationship is.

We are not sure what we want and are harmlessly trying to figure that out by taking a few cars for a test-drive rather than like, committing to driving a hand-me-down lemon just because it’s available and basically free.

Read the rest of it. It’s really great. I want to write my own, but I haven’t made time to do it yet. And yet, in some ways, this blog is really just one big declaration of my independence, and that of the readers who enjoy it. So I hope that you enjoy your Fourth of July, that you get some good food and some better company (even if you’ll be spending it alone), that you consider those who literally fight for our freedom and salute those who do it both literally and figuratively.

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