Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain.
She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”)
What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.
This piece was a recent “most emailed” sensation on the NYT site. I was interested in the way it touched on a specific city (NYC) in making its points.
I also have to mention, Michael Kinsley wrote at least two very good essays about “busy”-ness as a status marker. This bit reminded me of them, and I looked up and re-read both of the pieces I remembered. Kinsley is amazing.