I think you can guess what my life is like. When people ask me how I’m doing, the word is constantly in the air. “I’m good, just very busy.” “Yes, we should definitely hang out, I’m just really busy right now”. “Why didn’t I do that yet? Oh, it’s because I’m busy.”
But often I wonder if I’m saying these words because they are fundamentally true? Or because in this Western society that we live in, we’re not allowed to not be busy?
The Situation at Home
At the start of each week for example, I make a list of everything I feel I should accomplish at the end of it. All the chores, assignments and social obligations. And never do I finish that list in time. The excuse is of course that my schedule is just too busy. Meanwhile, I binge an entire season of a new Netflix show in that week. What am I saying? Two seasons! Plus I take hour-long naps on a lot of days.
Despite this juxtaposition, my brain still only runs along the perspective of constant busyness. It feels like my brain cells are imitating a busy intersection in Vietnam, all my to-do’s constantly racing and honking, it being a miracle that nothing crashes. And the weird thing is, it seems that we purposely try to excite our brain into this constant stress mode.
To do this we not only try to find more things to do, we also try to make the things we do seem like more.
Because the moment we have nothing to do, the moment our brains can finally take a break, we start to complain about being bored. And god forbid that we are bored right?
My Experience with the Maasai
I want to tell about a different way of living. In the summer of 2017 I went on a study trip to Tanzania and Kenya. An uncountable number of lessons were learned and experiences were gathered. One of those was a three-day homestay with the Maasai.
The Maasai are a semi-nomadic ethnic group in East Africa. The man herd the cows, the boys herd the goats, and the women take care of the household. One community welcomed us in their homes and their daily life.
The thing is, nothing happens much in their daily life. We as women woke up around 6/7 AM, had some tea with sugar for breakfast and then waited till around 11 AM. At that point we either went to gather wood or pick up water. When we came back we got treated to some lunch. Then we waited again till the evening to prepare dinner, and after that hopefully a social event was organized.
As you can read, there are long waiting times in between. Those are the moments we sat in the shade under a tree, and simply talked. No electricity = no smartphones for entertainment
Reflections under the Tree
One fellow student joined me in the homestay. Between us, deep conversations came up in the shade. In one conversation we reflected on the comparison of our boredom here and the stress of our busy life at home.
Because which one is better? In the beginning we were sure it was our way of living. But the longer we sat under the shade the more we wondered. Why did we develop this cultural need to be constantly busy? Perhaps we really just create stress in order to feel like we’re living how it’s supposed to be. Like we’re accomplishing life as it’s supposed to be.
We see being busy as a means to moving forward and a clear showing of our development. But in terms of this aspect, I think the Maasai are actually living much smarter and healthier than most of us do in this ‘developed’ world. Being busy and stressed should never be the golden standard.
Because when it does, it takes over our mental state. With burnouts and depressions as the consequence. In the Netherlands this is already a problem. In Northern America, where a sign of good work is not the quality of the work but the amount of time you spend in the office, I imagine it’s worse.
I’m not busy right now. I’m enjoying a holiday of two weeks and have to do a few extra things on the side. But I don’t need to do them in the next hour, so there’s no need for stress. Let’s try out a bit of boredom instead.
Don’t stress. Everything always works out in the end. Hakuna matata.