By Caitlin Kelly
I always thought I was ambitious and driven — and I am! — but hoo, boy, living in the United States, and especially in New York, can make people working 24/7 feel lazy, slow and — the worst insult here — “unproductive.”
If there is a word I loathe, it’s “productive”, and wrote one of my most popular and controversial early blog posts about it.
It assumes our only value in the world is financial — making lots and lots of money and proving to everyone how hard-working you are, when many of us, so many, would have preferred more available parents or friends or relatives to just hang out with for a while. I mean, working way beyond financial need or your work’s requirements to keep proving to someone (who?) you are a valuable person.
No one, I assure you, no one, dies whispering regretfully they wish they’d been more productive.
They mourn lost or broken relationships, the travel they never enjoyed, the loss of health and strength.
I was too driven for my native Canada but am far too European for the U.S. — because I nap almost every day, vacation as often and for as long (pre-COVID) as affordable, and keep urging others to lay down tools and rest.
So I loved this piece in The New York Times on the unfashionable joys of being lazy:
America in 2022 is an exhausting place to live. Pretty much everyone I know is tired. We’re tired of answering work emails after dinner. We’re tired of caring for senior family members in a crumbling elder care system, of worrying about a mass shooting at our children’s schools. We’re tired by unprocessed grief and untended-to illness and depression. We’re tired of wildfires becoming a fact of life in the West, of floods and hurricanes hitting the South and East. We’re really tired of this unending pandemic. Most of all, we are exhausted by trying to keep going as if everything is fine.
Increasing numbers of people are refusing to push through this mounting weariness: There are currently 10 million job openings in the United States, up from 6.4 million before the pandemic.
This trend is being led by young people; millions are planning to leave their jobs in the coming year. Some middle-aged people decry the laziness of today’s youth, but as a chronically sick Gen X parent, and as a rabbi who has spent much of my career tending to dying people as their lives naturally slow, I am cheering young people on in this Great Resignation.
I have seen the limits of the grind. I want my child to learn how to be lazy.
I also like this, from Seth Godin’s blog:
In our fast-moving world, it’s easy to get hooked on personal velocity. What’s in your inbox? Did someone follow you in the last ten seconds? Where’s the beep and the beep and the beep from your last post?
Perhaps we talk faster, interrupt, talk over, invent, dissect, criticize and then move on to the next thing. Boom, boom, boom.
Don’t want to fall off the bike.
But life isn’t a bike. It works fine if we take a moment and leave space for the person next to us to speak.
Are you going fast without getting anywhere?