Finally, a stereotype we should embrace, writes Pat Brothwell. Let’s bring lazy back in vogue.
Perception is a funny thing isn’t it? I feel like I think people think one way of me and then learn down the road that it’s actually the complete opposite. I had a similar experience this summer when I visited Iceland.
Last summer I finally experienced international travel when I took a trip to Ireland and followed it up with a jaunt to Iceland this year. I think that if I stick with teaching, this is going to be my thing: finding a new country or international destination to visit every summer. And don’t worry; this post is not going to be one of those “let me enlighten you on how one must leave the country and broaden their perspectives” pieces. I hate those. Rather I’m just giving you some background so I can explain that one thing I always find funny in my (limited) abroad experiences is the perception of Americans.
The people in Ireland were legitimately funny about it, especially our tour bus driver. He thought that Americans thought everything was “really cool” or “awesome” and that we like to binge drink and that when taking pictures we like to climb things or hold things and aren’t just content standing in front of something. While this might be a heavy handed caricature, it is a heavy handed caricature that describes me to a t, so we got a lot of laughs out of it.
I half expected that most people would have either a deprecating or even negative perception of Americans so was shocked in Iceland when talking to a British guy at our hostel (ok, so I’m humble bragging about how worldly I am..I’m trying) and he said he thought all Americans were workaholics who didn’t know how to relax. Are you sure you’re talking about the right nationality, I asked him. I could swear that Americans have a predilection for being lazy.
No, he replied. Our culture doesn’t really know how to slow down. We have less vacation time than most other countries and we work longer hours and far more overtime and always want to get everything done as fast as possible. After a little reflection, it made total sense.
We are a fast paced society and we value having what we consider to be “good jobs” and are always trying for that next step, or big raise, more schooling, or next promotion. Downtime is associated with failure and losers who are never going to amount to anything. Sure, we have the weekends but that’s only because we “work hard, play hard.” Even our downtime seems filled with contests of who could drink more, or who could be out the latest or have the most extreme or most unique hobby.
I’m a big supporter of downtime and relaxing. I’ve never really thought it was a negative thing and have always valued giving myself me time. Still, I sometimes find myself feeling guilty if I have too much of it. I spend about an average of 2 hours everyday lesson planning and grading papers in order to ensure I’m doing a tip-top job at school. I’m also looking into whether or not a new career possibility is in the cards, which takes plenty of time and research. I work out an average of any hour and half a day for health and vanity purposes. I run my travel blog which I try to post content on twice a week, I look for freelance writing assignments, work on various writing projects that hopefully will result in a novel someday and need to squeeze time in for various mundane errands and feeding myself (am I humble bragging again?). Still I make sure to take time for having fun and straight up relaxing.
It’s just that more and more I have to combat the feeling that I didn’t spend enough time on something or spent too many weekends not working and start doubting that downtime that I’ve always valued and held important.
I’m far from alone on this. I can’t even tell you how many people get straight up confused when I tell them that I normally don’t spend my summers off working or going back to school. Now, I do write a lot and make a cognizant effort to try and utilize at least my mornings for productivity but I also use the time to travel, relax, work on my tennis and golf games and if it’s a nice summer go to my parents for a couple of days (or weeks) and hang by the pool. Don’t you get bored, a lot of people wonder? I don’t. I’ve never had that problem. A lot of people counter that they couldn’t do it, they need to be constantly working on something. I don’t think it’s healthy, but I think they’re bringing me over to the dark side.
On top of this being that overworked is straight up not healthy. My brother is currently in law school. He has a work ethic that puts mine to shame and in general you need to overwork in order to get through law school successfully. At the beach over Labor Day he mentioned how people would question why he went out Friday and Saturday rather than spend it in the library or just sometimes chill with a movie instead of studying and he said it’s just to help him unwind, to prevent himself from getting too stressed out or high strung and be able to then retackle what he needs to with a reinvigorated focus. I’m no scientist but I’ve read the horror stories about how stress can age you and the things it could do to your body.
While I appreciate a good hustle, I’ve never got the concept of working overtime every night and flogging weekends and holidays with business calls in order to get ahead. I don’t feel like I lack ambition but I’ve never wanted to be the best or at the top of what I do. It’s hard to explain without sounding like a complete bum but I think it takes a lot of joys out of life. Being able to afford to relax and hang out with friends and drink a little too much and travel are the reasons that I work hard in the first place. I could now easily see what my new British friend was getting at.
You know what the best part about this is? We can fix the workaholic stereotype and bring the lazy back in vogue and because it’s lazy it requires little work and work and little effort and it’s good for you. It’s a win-win.
Photo: sloneczna / flickr