Never say \”I am so busy…\”

Oh, lord.

Are you a bit of an introvert? Have you ever had to write a job application?

In my world there are very little forms of torture more cruel than having to prove, with words, in a small box, with a given question, in a very persuasive manner, and confidently, how good I am.



When I came back from my fieldwork in September I was offered the chance to apply for a job I really cared about. That was back when I thought I was too busy to do most things normal people do, like doing my laundry before I run out of pants and prep meals that don’t consist of leftover humus and crackers. Back when I said “Oh, I am just always so busy with this PhD”. MISTAKE.


Never, under any circumstances, say you are too busy. Looks like, when you do what you love, opportunities arise every day to add to your already crazy list of life missions. That\’s ok. Good even! It is up to you to then decide how you handle these opportunities and whether a \’no, thank you\’ is better than loosing your sleep over an extra few things you love. Somehow I never learnt how to say no to good things. Who needs sleep when you can have bears in your life and who needs meals more sophisticated than salad put together by fridge leftovers when you can use that time to reply to emails that have been left in your inbox longer than time itself!

Never say you are too busy. I now double as a Senior Technical Instructor for GIS, triple as a greenhouse carer for the university\’s glasshouse, quadriple as an environmental technician, and also packing my entire flat to move in with one of my dearest ever friends. Her and I will combine forces and join our botanical wonder-collections, to turn an already lovely flat into an urban jungle.

One could say I am busy.


Unfortunately, I have now developed an allergic reaction to this sentence. The kind of allergic reaction one gets when they get over-exposed to something. Like, getting stung by bees too many times might make you allergic to bees.

This one is an allergic reaction caused by too much exposure to academics and researchers (I inlcude myself in this). The world where being busy is some sort of competition that wins you nothing but insomnia and acid reflux and whatever else form of discomfort your organism uses to let you know you\’ve been too stressed for too long. This competition runs several times a day, between groups of people that meet in corridors, lunch breaks and, in its best form, across lab benches. Here is how you play this game:

  1. Get yourself another busy felow researcher
  2. Pretend all is ok during the first awkward nods
  3. Wait for the \’how are you\’ – that\’s your moment. Act now. This is the time to put on your strongest \’I am too busy\’ face. It\’s your time to radiate all your misery into the world. Sieze your chance. Make it count.

Now, let me tell you about The Face..
Top tips on how to pull off the One Face that Rules them All:

Take a small breath imagining the smell of gone off eggs. This should make your nose contract in memory of the discomfort, which allows for the first signal to you opponent that the battle is on.

Let the breath out and pull a face that looks like you have just seen a small puppy with three legs, while also trying to find something up in the ceiling of the room that annoys you, like a mosquito.

Shake your head slowly, giving them a clear message that, however busy they have been, you have been busier. The strength is in convincing them. Feel like a winner. Earn this price of feeling miserable while silmutaniously feeling superior. Where else true superiority in the research world comes from if not the face prooving that you have been busier?

Now say it. \”Oh, it\’s been hell…\”, \”I\’ve been so busy…\”, \”I haven\’t left the lab in 50 years\”, \”I have forgotten my wife\’s name\”, \”I forgot to pick my son up from his baby sitter and he has been with her for 12 days…\”, \”I have been away in conferences for so long, so dog is now friendlier to the Amazon delivery guy\”. Keep it short but convey the largest amount of misery a sentence can contain.

Remember: Don\’t get dissapointed if you lose the first few battles. Some researchers lose years of their lives to stress before they can win their first \’too busy\’ competition. It is an art you will have a lifetime of insomnia and misery to perfect.


I have now seen -and caught myself doing- this face so much, I have developed my own way of responding to this unbelievably first world problem (still a massive problem, no doubt!) and I think this may be a revolutionary idea, so hear me out! Next time this happens to you, just listen. Maybe for once we can let the tired person in front of us take their best shot at The Face game without trying to win the game. Maybe this time we nod and try to do what we always hoped others would do for us: congratulate them on being so passionate and get excited with the results of their hard work for a change.

Everyone works hard and I can now find no excuse to compete in how hard I work. I am happy with myself and I love what I do and that\’s enough for me. But I have all the time in the world to talk to passionate people, listen to their successes or hardships and encourage each other to keep doing however much we can and want every day. Maybe even, instead of ending the sentence in misery, end it by reminding people how lucky we all are to be able to even have a go at doing what we love. For once, say \”I am tired, but happy\”.

Because, if you are not happy, stop compaining and just change things. Take care of youself and your passion. Groundbreaking, right?


Today I am finding myseld amongst moving boxes, with one fully functioning shoulder blade (the other is taking a break from this existence for a while, perfectly coinsiding with my having to carry all these boxes tomorrow morning…), having not replied to emails I should have responded to days ago, having used my only day off in a while to pack my life into these boxes, having slept no more than 5 hours each day this week to make it all work, slightly hallucinating from lack of decent existence overall! But, having spent the last couple of hours laughing outloud at the pain my shoulder blade suddenly decided to cause me, and thinking of the wonderful friendships I have made while living in this tiny flat, I can confidently say,

I am knackered, but really, truly happy.

I hope you are too.


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