There are 24 Usable Hours in a Day

The scene: A coffee shop a couple blocks from my house on a sunny autumn afternoon. Characters: Me, juggling my bike and a coffee; A friend, who I haven’t seen in a couple of weeks.

Friend: “Hi Andrea! How are you?”

Me: “Busy. Insanely busy.”

“I’m busy.” That’s my usual excuse on why I haven’t seen or talked to people in weeks- people like my poor mother, who calls  to make sure that I didn’t fall in a well somewhere. I work at the Tribune. I freelance for two local publications and one back in Brooklyn.  I’m building an entertainment website. I’m finishing my degree with one class each semester. I volunteer (usually my friend’s classroom) at least once a week. My free time is usually spent with my boyfriend or trying to catch up on some personal reading (I had to find out what happened to Darcy in the new Bridget Jones book). Yeah- I do a lot. I am busy.

I came across this article (posted below), written by Meredith Fineman, a few days ago as I was searching more efficient time management methods. After I read this, I realized telling someone that I’m busy puts me on a hierarchy of importance (this is something I never considered before even I don’t think I’m more important that anyone). More importantly, I’m choosing to spend most of my time being “busy.” In reality, I’m pushing people away, grabbing for my day planner instead of going in for a hug.

I understand your pain, Liv.

I understand your pain, Liv.

In the great 90s hit, “Empire Records,” Liv Tyler’s characters happily explains why she managed to bake delicious cupcakes,study calculus and apply to Harvard- “There are 24 usable hours in a day.” Granted, she was on meth most of the film but her words still do ring true. Eight hours for sleep aside, how does make the most of their day, especially like me who has a lot on their plate? How does one make time for everything?

I hope you, dear reader, find the time to do the things in life that are meaningful to you and see the important people that you love.

We’re all just so “busy” these days. “Slammed,” in fact. “Buried.” Desperately “trying to keep our heads above water.” While these common responses to “How are you?” seem like they’re lifted from the Worst-Case Scenario Handbook, there seems to be a constant exchange, even a one-upping, of just how much we have on our plates when we communicate about our work.

My favorite “busy” humble-brag was that of a potential client who apologized for lack of communication due to a “week-long fire drill.” What does that even mean? Does this mean there were fake fires, but not real ones, all week? Does calling it a “drill” mean that everything is okay? Is your business in flames? Should I call someone?

Then there was the date I had with a fellow who was so busy “crashing on deadlines” that he asked me to “just make a reservation somewhere” for him. I was floored.

So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say that “I’m busier than you are,” means I’m more important, or that my time is more valuable, or that I am “winning” at some never-finished rat race to Inbox Zero. (Inbox Zero is another absurd contest to tackle at another time.) What you’re trying to say with these responses is: I’m busier, more in-demand, more successful.

Here’s the thing: it’s harming how we communicate, connect and interact. Everyone is busy, in different sorts of ways. Maybe you have lots of clients, or are starting a new business, or are taking care of a newborn. The point is this: with limited time and unlimited demands on that time, it’s easy to fill your plate with activities constantly. But this doesn’t mean that you should.

"To fill the hour- that is happiness." -RALPH WALDO EMERSON

“To fill the hour- that is happiness.” -RALPH WALDO EMERSON

To assume that being “busy” (at this point it has totally lost its meaning) is cool, or brag-worthy, or Tweetable, is ridiculous. By lobbing these brags, endlessly puffing our shoulders about how “up to my neck” we are, we’re missing out on important connections with family and friends, as well as personal time. In addition to having entire conversations about how busy we are, we fail to share feelings with friends and family, ask about important matters, and realize that the “busy” is something that can be put on hold for a little while.

I am not trying to belittle anyone’s work-load in the slightest. But in using it as a one-upping mechanism, we’re failing to connect in a very substantial way. And we’re making the problem worse: When everyone around us is “slammed,” it’s easy to feel guilty if we’re not slaving away on a never-ending treadmill of toil.

By trying to compete about it, we’re only adding to that pool of water everyone seems to be constantly “treading” in. And all this complaining is having serious effects on our mental health.

And yet we continue to use long hours as a sort of macho badge of honor.

We need to work smart, not (just) hard.

For once, I’d like to hear someone brag about their excellent time management skills, rather than complain about how much they can’t get done. Maybe we could learn something from each other.

Yes, we all have some strange need to out-misery each other. Acknowledging that is a first step. But next time you speak to a friend and want to lament about how busy you are, ask yourself why. Try steering the conversation away from a complain-off. With some practice you might find yourself actually feeling less “buried” (or at least feeling less of a need to say it all the time).

And maybe that’s something worth bragging about.


Best Friends Forever

I once had this friend that I met in one of my Spanish classes a couple of years back. We became close during the class and started to hang out afterward. We’d chill at her house, playing with her kitten, talking about ballet and the guys in our conversation class. She was great, especially when things in my life went downhill and I dropped out of school. When I moved back to Nevada last year, she was one of first people to reach out and welcome me home. We got together all the time- for baking dates and Sunday mornings at church. But then a couple of months later, she stopped talking to me.  I had no idea why. Multiple times, I sent her messages and phone calls, asking her why she stopped talking to me. Did I say something wrong? Did I hurt her in someway? I never knew why. I still want to know why.

I have friends right now that diss my social life and my job, saying things like “fuck that” when I tell them that I have previously scheduled plans. It’s hurtful to hear and read those words. I understand when people have other obligations and can’t hang out- I respect that. I expect the same treatment from others toward me. But I continue to get this dealt this card; not only criticizing my how I spend my time but also things like my boyfriend and our relationship.

On what grounds do you drop a friend? How hurtful do they have to be for you not to talk to them? How do they screw you over- emotional, physically, financially? I understand that people drift apart, that sometimes life pulls them apart and they lose things in common with each other. But what is this person is someone who makes you feel like crap? How are you supposed to break-up with them?

Look, I’m not the one to talk. I know that I’m a terrible friend. I cancel plans all the time and lately, I rather spend time with the boyfriend on the couch than my friends having cocktails and dinner (sometimes, it’s easier to plop on the sofa rather than hop in the shower to get ready, spend some time making myself up to look cute, going to the ATM to cash out for drink, etc, etc.). I’ve let my work take over my schedule (I have my reasons for letting that happen, though) and I continue to fill my plate with things like my web start-up and the task of writing for a new local publication. Maybe its friendship karma that I’m experiencing. Or maybe I’m just hanging out with the wrong people- people who bring me down rather than inspire and encourage me. Isn’t that what a friend is supposed to do- boost you up?

Whatever the case may be, I’m trying to find the courage inside to figure out what is the right thing to do. I hope I make the correct choice. I keep on reminding myself that I am truly a good friend- the kind of person who loans money out to those who need it most, someone you can call at four in the morning after a bad night filled with fighting. I must remind myself that I deserve kindness and good people in my life. I hope you, dear reader, remind yourself of that, too, and I hope you receive nothing but love and respect from the ones you call your friends.

Thoughts from Your Local Journalist

Today was a hard day; not only as a journalist but as a human being. I went to Sparks Middle School to cover today’s shooting for the Sparks Tribune to talk with students and parents about the incident (for those who are unaware of today’s event- a student brought in a handgun to Sparks Middle School this morning and shot at several people. A math teacher and former Marine, Michael Landsberry, was shot and killed while protecting a student). As much as I tried to be stoic and professional, I wanted badly to drop my notepad and camera to hug these individuals. The amount of tears I saw this morning was overwhelming but at the same time, I was happy to tell these people’s stories.

A lot people criticize today’s journalism as being insensitive and callous. But my journalistic peers and I strive to tell and show the truth. After reading various media sites, where people commented on how terrible people we journalists are for reaching out at the scene for stories, I want to remind everyone that we are people, too, and we do feel for our story subjects. My heart breaks for the students and staff at Sparks Middle School. As thrilling of a news day it was for me today, I hope to never report on such a tragedy again.

This and That

I’m the president of the Procrastinator Club (okay, not really!).

I’m loving life and the stuff I’m doing (most of the time). Work at the newspaper is going great. I’m busy developing a start-up and am trying to focus in on school. My relationship with my boyfriend, Nathan, is better than ever. Most days, I wake up and I go go go- biking to work and to interviews, back home to change and bike out to grab dinner and drinks with friends or a snuggle session with Nate. Most days, after running around all over town and spending a good chunk of time in front of my work computer, by the time I get home I’m exhausted and don’t feel like blogging. I do beat myself up about my lack of personal writing- that I’m the president of the Procrastinator Club- but then I’m reminded to be kind to myself. As much as I want to be Superwoman and get everything on my to-do done, there is no way that I can get it all done. I’m doing my best and I do deserve a break sometime.

Even though I haven’t posted in a while, I still think about 20Something topics all the time- things I think people would like to read about, things that are relevant. From the recent government shutdown that has affected my friends in the AmeriCorps, to sexual psyche questions I had after watching “Don Jon,” my brain is buzzing with things to write about. Often times I’m riding my bike and something pops into my head. I drift over, pull a pen out my purse and write down whatever in my head (I don’t recommend doing this as I once almost got ran over by a truck).

The following are the things I’ve been thinking about the last couple weeks. I might develop them into longer posts (or I just may not, depending on time and my schedule). ‘Til then…

Halloween is coming up. I feel weird writing this (maybe I lost my party gene) but I want to stay home and hand out candy this year. Maybe set a booby trap for the neighborhood kids. I know that Halloween is that one time of the year girls across our fine nation get to dress provocatively (thank you, “Mean Girls!”). But lately, I’ve been thinking about how society shames women when they dress quote-unquote slutty.

Are these women really "sluts?"

Are these women really “sluts?”

Why? When I got out clubbing, I wear a short dress with low-heeled shoes (so I can get my groove-thang on without falling). I love to dance and get pretty sweaty when I do (hence the small amount of clothing). Why am I labeled a “tramp” then when I decide to wear a little dress, rather than something heavy that will soak up my sweat?

When I was living in NYC, I participated in the Slut Walk (an event Reno will eventually host- hopefully). I walked in the Walk, wearing shorts and a thin tank top. During the walk, I talked with a woman about why mainstream television shows blood and violence instead of breasts. I don’t understand it. Why doesn’t our society accept something natural and beautiful as a pair of breasts on primetime television? Is the naked body more horrifying than a dead one?

I just came back from having dinner with friends at a downtown establishment. As much as I’m happy to go out and be social, I don’t know if I’m exactly “friends” with these people. I haven’t seen a few of them in years and neither of us were close before. Perhaps that was why I was in such as hurry to leave. I don’t remember what I have in common with those people anymore. Is it my social anxiety that’s kicking it? Or maybe we aren’t in each other’s lives for a reason….

My boyfriend refers to me as the “social butterfly” but I know myself as the “Vine Street Recluse.” Truth be told- I’m fine being alone and I think tonight, I rather have spent this time alone. Why it is so awkward to spend time with people, especially people haven’t seen in years?

My university is asking its students whether or not they want to pay a semesterly fee to the construction of a new gym facility on campus. I understand that such things like a new gym would help bring students in- thus, bringing in money- but universities are foremost places to learn. Why don’t we spend more money on academics? I’m starting to think that students nowadays are being fooled- or perhaps they’re dumber than they appear. Would you want to go to a college that has stellar academic programs or have a decent gymnasium facility? (I can’t wait to read the results of this survey.)

I’m embarrassedly obsessed with new Fall Out Boy album- just thought the world should know how amazing it is (especially Patrick Stump’s vocals).

Tell me dear reader- what has been on your mind lately? I hope you’re well and are loving your life as much as I’m loving mine. Now, if you can excuse me- I’m off to meet a friend for a nightcap. Or four.