I don’t remember which fast food chain used that slogan in their commercials, but I can still hear the peppy, slightly salty way in which the actors said the phrase. They spoke with a blunt matter-of-factness, both a plea for our business and an expression of a truth of the human condition. It was a commercial that, like an onion, had layers.
Today at work, I was too busy for a meal. That doesn’t mean I didn’t eat: I am not new to this game and I have several energy bars stashed in strategic locations across campus and my own person. It does mean that I did not take the time to really eat. When I have less going on, I will take a lunch that involves interacting with other humans or reading a few pages from a totally non-work related beautiful piece of fiction. It might be only 15-20 minutes, but it is a moment to break and recharge. It is the signifier of a slow day.
I did not have any time for that today and I think I might like it a little better this way. I’m not sure that I can function like this in perpetuity, but there is nothing like the rush of going from class to meeting to office hours to meeting to meeting to research to progress on that research to seminar to meeting and so on. There is barely room to breathe and only enough room for the most productive kind of thinking.
I can see how it could wear on a person. I find it exhilarating, at least in these doses. The rush of being in a rush.
As I write this out, I realize that want to document the experience, not advocate for it, even if my language suggests otherwise. I know that I am not alone. Maybe academia encourages this frenzy, or maybe it just attracts people who like it. We’re not alone, obviously ““ how many jobs are populated by people running between meetings with cheese (danishes) shoved in their mouths?
We spend a lot of time talking about dealing with stress and difficult jobs and unreasonable expectations set upon us by ourselves or others. Those are important conversations to have. But I know that I need a certain level of stress to function, not a “get so busy you never eat, sleep, or have any sort of life,” but a “structure and excitement and general level of nice busyness” type of stress. Healthy stress ““ according to a magazine I read on a plane, it exists.
For me, the line between healthy stress is where “gotta eat” goes to “oh my lord how did I not have any time to eat anything and why didn’t I plan ahead what is going on with my life.” If I were more clever, I’d write that the line is between “gotta eat” and “GOTTA EAT” but I can’t get my caps seem anything but way too much fun, especially since Feminist Hulk barged on the scene. As long as I stay on the right side of the line, all the rushing is in good fun.
Where’s your line? Do you have a “good” stress level?