Middlebury and the Mantra of “I’m So Busy”

By Santiago Azpurua-Borras

Those three words, those three damnable words: “I’m so busy” or its common mutations “I’m too busy” and “I have so much to do!” Assuming you’ve spent more than a week on campus, you’ve heard this phrase at least once. As a senior, I’ve heard it countless times; I’ve used it myself on more than a few occasions. But after my semester abroad and the beginning of this semester, I’ve acquired a potent distaste for the words and, even more so, what they lead to.

Imagine that you and your friends sit down for a meal at the beloved Ross dining hall. The colorful oval plates are filled to the edges with dishes that have been combined with previous days’ dishes to create a new offering, and perhaps a slice of pizza. The descending light of the sun gently hits your glass of the sweet nectar that is Ross Watta. As you’re enjoying both the meal and the company of your loved ones, you hear it — that first sentence that begins the descent into madness: “I have SO MUCH to do this week,” followed by the inevitable checklist conjured by the Great Old One himself; “I have TWO exams and FOUR papers this week, not to mention ALL of the clubs I do.”

Usually, nothing happens until someone inevitably follows up with: “Yeah, that sucks, I have THREE exams this week, FIVE papers due on Friday AND I have to write an article for the Campus.”

This won’t stop until everyone has had a turn. It will end when the one person who does so much around campus, who has so much work and so many extracurricular — a person who is rarely seen without the sort of twisted medal of honor that is their physical and emotional exhaustion, dictates their to-do list and “wins” this game.

And lets face it — when this situation arises, it definitely becomes a game. We’ve all seen this outside of Middlebury as well, when misery quickly becomes a sought after commodity that allows you to somehow one-up friends and peers. But what is the reward? Some eschewed sense of validation? Superiority?

The truth is, these little, “Who has it rougher” matches are nothing more than a game, and in this game, even if you win, you all still lose.
What annoys me the most about this phenomenon is that “I’m too busy” eventually becomes an excuse. It can be used as an excuse to not try new things or for when someone just doesn’t want to say “no.”

I can most certainty see the appeal; we are all busy, so using that magic word will create an almost instant sense of solidarity. And I get it — sometimes one is just too busy to do things. What annoys me is when people use this mantra as some cheap ticket of self-validation, telling themselves that if they work harder than others, their actions or inactions are somehow validated.

Instead of using the mantra of “busy” as an excuse, we should be using it as a foundation to help establish informal interpersonal webs of support for one another. I believe that Middlebury isn’t an easy experience for anyone — no matter what he or she will tell you — and instead of turning it into some game, we should use our business as the glue that keeps us all together. The people on this campus are, in my humble opinion, the best thing about this place.

Someone has a lot of papers this week? Offer them a fresh set of eyes and perspective to look it over. Help your hallmate with the midterm with a small quizzing session. Basically, just try to do whatever you can to help your fellow man — assuming it all stays within the confines of the Honor Code, of course.

So instead of saying “I cant, I’m too busy,” let’s try offering  “I am busy, but I’m willing to make the effort and time for you.”

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