Casualties of the Rat Race
Is there ever an end to our to-do lists? One of the first casualties of the rat race is our relationships.
Burying my head in my arms to muffle the sound of my crying, I crumpled into a pathetic ball on the bathroom floor. Meltdown. I don't have many of those, but this past week was sufficient to induce one. I had been sick all week, and increasingly stressed and frustrated with each passing day. (I'll spare you the tedious details of my workload this semester, but suffice it to say it feels like I didn't know what "busy" meant until this year.)
"I can't do it!" I sobbed. "I can't do everything that's demanded of me to the standard that they expect, the standard that I want. It's impossible. I'm exhausted. I'm sick. There's not enough time. I hate this."
My life is an endless cycle of do, do, do. Do now, do more, do better. No time. No time for deep devotions, because I am too tired and distracted. No time for meaningful social interaction, because I am too busy getting my assignments done. No time to explore. No time to just be. I have to accomplish important stuff.
I am part of one rat race, being trained to enter another. There is no finish line. And somehow, especially after weeks like this, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that my life is not all that it could be -- perhaps not all that it should be.
I can't help looking back to my pivotal experience in Laos. Life there was far from perfect, yet there were many things I learned to value. Sometimes I wonder whether part of the reason God sent me there was so that I could grasp priceless lessons I couldn't have learned by staying in the West.
I need to apply those lessons back here, to recreate those things I miss, but it's hard.
I am naturally a task-oriented, driven perfectionist. That's not altogether bad. However, and it feels so horrible to admit this, I tend to put tasks above people. Sometimes people turn into tasks. My stuff has to get done.
Laos showed me that relationships are more important than tasks. People always had time to talk to you (which sometimes frustrated me because I was trying to stick to my business, surprise surprise). People would always invite you to spend time with them, to eat with them.
People would shut down their businesses for days because of a family funeral; instead of working they would spend time with their guests, neighbours, and family. Living in this environment, I slowly began to mellow, to get used to the idea that building good relationships really was more important than checking off everything on my to-do list.
I was satisfied by deepening friendships and meaningful, honest conversation. Relationships -- building them, sustaining them, fixing them -- began to take a higher priority. I felt supported, I felt loved, I felt challenged.
Now I have reverted to checking off my to-do list. Back here, I don't know how to live like other people are more important than my tasks. I hate that, and I want to fight it, but this rat race seems so perfectly designed to focus my attention on myself and what needs to get done because my grades and my future and my reputation is riding on all.that.stuff.
So too often I sacrifice the chance to grow meaningful relationships on the altar of my daily planner to the great, insatiable god Time.
That's not the way life should be.
First written in 2014