One of my favorite places to study at in my college is on the top floor of our art center. This building isn’t particularly tall or anything, just two stories, but from this vantage point, I get a perfect view of our main campus. I mostly sit here because I like to remind myself despite how inconsequential all these people seem to be, and despite the fact that I don’t know the many people walking by, we are all living and writing out our own narrative.
I think that we often forget that although we are the main characters in our narratives, there are millions of other narratives around us.
One unfortunate aspect of college, and perhaps, of life in general, is that it seems like we are constantly playing this game of “I’m the busiest.” You hear people engaging in these silly battles — “last night was rough, I got four hours of sleep.” “Wow only four hours? Jeez you don’t know anything. I’ve been running on three hours all week.”
Congratulations, you win at having a busier life. I try very hard to completely avoid these situations and conversations, but sometimes you can’t predict everything. Take for instance, this morning. One of my friends gave an incomprehensible, completely irrelevant answer to a question that was asked in class, citing some of his prior knowledge; after being humiliated for his answer, I suggested that maybe he should have read the book. He tells me that people like me would never understand how hard his life is. He was up until 5 a.m. grading problem sets because everyone is an “idiot” who doesn’t understand supply and demand.
Right. So before I retaliate, it would be hypocritical of me to say anything about his situation because then I wouldn’t be acknowledging the fact that he is probably fighting his own battle that I don’t know about. The content of what he said was irrelevant to me. I will never dispute that someone is busy and occupied with whatever they are currently occupied with. My issue is when people project their business and imply that others have no understanding of what that business is. I think it’s one thing to project when you’re having a rough time, but a completely different thing to project and belittle someone else’s experience.
It’s stupid and childish for us to try to play this game of who’s the busiest. What do you know about someone else’s life? Not only do you look obnoxious, selfish, and inconsiderate of others, but you also put people in such an awkward position. I’m always curious as to how people expect me to respond to these statements. I think there are a few ways it can go. First, you can go with the “I’m so sorry, you’re so busy response” — is this what they want? Sympathy? Not like that makes their life any better. Secondly, you can go with the “cool story bro. Don’t tell it again. Not like I don’t know what being busy is” — fight fire with fire. Thirdly, am I just supposed to not say anything and let you rant?
Lately, I’ve been getting a little more than just fed up with this one friend so I took option four and asked him what response he was looking for because it seemed like responses one through three all weren’t working for him. He responded by telling me that I would never understand; and maybe I will never be as busy as you are to understand, but please don’t try to compare my situation, which you know nothing about, to yours.
Regardless of which response you want from your I-want-sympathy-cry, can we acknowledge that putting someone in that kind of situation is just a tad bit selfish? What if they’re going through their own crisis right now? You think I care that you only got 5 hours last night when I didn’t sleep at all? Again, I understand that we have bad days and that sometimes we need to project our nastiness onto others. But please, please if you want to project, do it without belittling someone else’s narrative. You may think that you’re the star of your story, but you may be just an inconsequential side character in someone else’s.
The next time you complain and try to out-busy someone, think about what you are accomplishing. Do you want to win the prize for having a busier life? Does that make your life any better? Is there really any tangible benefit in voicing out your grievances and “beating” other’s problems? Also, how would you feel if someone responded to you by trivializing your experience?
Please don’t forget that we are all fighting our own battles and we are all desperately trying to live out our own narrative. I know you’re busy. We all are. Share your narrative, but never belittle someone else’s.