When a friend asks, “How are you doing?” what’s your answer? Do you tell him or her that you’re very confused? That a couple years ago you woke up on a Tuesday knowing that you were going to major in economics? You had an above average GPA, and you could explain to someone why you were going to be a very successful person with dogs, babies, a hot spouse, and an above average house with an above average yard in an above average world. Now those thoughts seem like fairytales. You woke up on Tuesday and you were happy because it wasn’t Monday. You have a job, but it’s not the job you imagined. Your boss has an hour commute every day so he can have that yard, and it isn’t even an above average yard. The absolute scariest thought is that you’ll be promoted and become him. You don’t think that will be you, but you also never thought that you would be you. Sometimes you think about being at your job for another 10 years and your heart rate starts to rise. You repeat to yourself, “just get to Thursday,” because at least there’s football on TV. Anyway, that would be a weird answer to “How are you doing?” So, instead, you just say, “I’m crazy busy” and move on, hoping your friend believes that you’re doing great, just like he or she is. You’re on track. You’re keeping with the herd. Everything is going to be fine. Just say you’re very busy.
The best part about college is that it’s normal to live with large groups. Whether you lived with your fraternity or sorority, in a senior house, in the dorms, or in a “brothel,” as so many college towns like to call off-campus houses, you got to wake up and be around a group operating at a similar pace. When you were hungover, you could look next to you on the couch and see that your best friend was hungover, too. He’s motivated and wants to be successful, and if he’s crazy enough to drink on a Wednesday, then why can’t you? When it’s raining and you get to the door at the same time as your fraternity brother, you can look at one another and decide watching a movie is a much better idea than going to class. It doesn’t feel so bad when you have a buddy with you. You’re both on track, and things will be fine. Post-college doesn’t offer that comfort. Maybe at best you have two roommates. One could have a girlfriend and another may have a job that is, without a doubt, better than yours–even though you have no clue what it is. When you wake up hungover, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and getting to work is done VERY MUCH alone. Not once during that process is there the comfort of a friend having a morning hit of weed, playing video games, giving you the thumbs up, almost whispering in your ear, “You’re doing fine, kiddo.”
And that’s why we lean on the word “busy.” The word elevates you above the couched individual. You’re not doing nothing, you’re doing everything–and that’s way too much to elaborate on. But let me assure you, most (if not all) of your friends are not busy. They have no kids or in-laws or even a kid in Africa getting 10 cents a day. Your buddy in finance works a few extra hours, but he’s never missed his college’s football games. That girl in law school has some studying to do, but reading and going to class is the same thing that grandparents with a hobby do, and I promise you she’s never missed an episode of “Pretty Little Liars.” That guy who just ended it because he was “busy” still had time to swipe through Tinder while setting his fantasy lineup. All of these people are sitting right next to you on a Sunday taking Fireball shots, because they’re adults who did what they wanted. “Busy” is the word they use to stop you from asking questions. It’s used to elevate and avoid the honesty that, at this age, one can only have so much going on.
It’s the time of year where the sun goes down a little earlier and the shadow of better college days bears down a little darker. It’s okay to wonder, “What the fuck?” because no matter how busy people say they are, they feel the same way. You ever have a friend brag about how his “farts are the worst?” That’s a kid of our generation. It doesn’t matter that farting is gross and unspeakable–this guy’s farts are original. The most true cliché is that we were all told how special and different we were as kids, and that’s why this all hurts a little more. But I don’t know if there’s a better way to parent your kid. I’m not sure if instead of eating orange slices, we should have spent youth soccer game halftimes being spanked and told we were bad boys. That may sound like a hot Saturday night, but it’s no way to bring up a kid. The result of being told we were extraordinarily different is making us all feel eerily the same. Our loneliness must be extraordinarily lonelier. Your apartment must be extraordinarily small. Your job must be extraordinarily worse. Your time must be extraordinarily cramped. But you’d be wrong–and you’re definitely not busy.