“How are you?”
Somewhere in between graduating university and securing a job that didn’t include the words ‘entry level’, I learnt to answer that question with a single word: “busy”.
It seemed like every important person I had met said it. Being busy meant being important, motivated, in hot demand. Busy people juggled charity dinners and three hour workouts and an array of clean, well-mannered children. Busy people were the pinnacle of clever.
I loved saying that I was busy.
It was exhilarating at first – I felt like some kind of professional woman, a corporate lady, a holder of suitcases and wearer of heels. I was important and grown up and very, very busy.
But as I got older, life actually did become busy… and then I didn’t enjoy answering that question quite as much as I used to.
In the last few years, this little four-lettered word has gathered big attention.
Everyone from job recruiters to psychologists preach the shortcomings of saying that you're 'busy'. It indicates that you're tired, stressed, or overworked; and doesn't quite achieve the desired effect I sought as a younger person. It doesn't make you sound impressive - it just makes you look like you're struggling.
And yet, in 2016, many really do feel overwhelmed with life - we are working longer and harder, struggling to keep up. Globalisation and the creation of an online environment has brought greater levels of social comparison than ever before; and for many, it seems like we just can't get ahead.
Higher and higher we pile our plate, driven on by 'life envy', and the desire to be that woman who has it all.
Kids, work, cocktails, exercise, Facebook, chores, dating, leisure, new episodes on Netflix: life is brimming with competing factors that beg or beep for your attention. When was the last time you felt relaxed enough to answer the question, 'how are you?' with something positive?
I would fall off my chair if I ever received an answer that indicated someone was A) Well slept, B) Achieving a good work/life balance, or C) Were content with the state of their butt, thighs, or tuckshop lady arms.
It seems like the word 'busy' is the shortest and most accurate method of saying, "I need a goddamn holiday. And then I need to hire a full staff of people to help me live my life."
But at the end of the day, how do we quantify 'busy'?
And is it even true?
If there was ever a woman who could legitimately claim to be busy, it's Laura Vanderkam. Mother, author, and owner of some of the glossiest hair I've ever seen, Laura is in the business of studying of busyness.
Her bestselling books are in-depth studies to the way people live, with 'What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast', 'All The Money In The World', '168 Hours', and 'Grindhopping' becoming bibles of busy. Or, more accurately, not being busy.