Written by Hazel Davis


Breaking’s bad

Hazel Davis isn’t stressed, she’s JUST BUSY, OK?


Illustration by Louise Boulter.

“You must make time for yourself.” “You must slow down.” “You’re always SO busy.” “You need a rest.”

I KNOW people are being nice and I know they only have my best interests at heart. I agree, rest is good. I agree, being stressed is bad but I do wish they would stop equating being busy with being stressed.

I’ve been stressed, sure. I was stressed when I had an unreasonable and poorly paid magazine job that was keeping me awake every night and making me miserable. But I wasn’t busy. I was bored, mentally unchallenged and unhappy. These days I run around like a blue-arsed fly (ask any of my friends) but, do you know what? I bloody love every (well almost) minute of it.

It’s very trendy to slow down and grow a beard nowadays. It’s even trendier to tell other people to. But studies HAVE ACTUALLY shown that being busy can make us happy. I know it makes me happy.

At the risk of banging on about my upbringing all the time (it really wasn’t that bad), I was raised in a house where being busy wasn’t really a thing. Life was laid-back, lackadaisical. “I refuse to make plans” was the mantra; “I won’t be tied to a timetable.” Consequently not much happened because to get anything done you do actually need to say yes to things now and again.

When I grew up I realised that saying yes meant you could get stuff done. In fact, saying yes to pretty much everything anyone asks has resulted in some pretty cool experiences.

“Want to go to New York and interview Meat Loaf?” What if I’d told the truth and said I was in the grips of not-quite-managing to run a comedy agency and simultaneously working on the content for a whole other magazine?

Likewise I was offered some regular work when I was about to give birth. My partner, no make that EVERYONE, advised me to turn it down because I would be too busy. I didn’t, of course and the same client has paid my mortgage for the last couple of years.

Financial burden aside, I knew that taking maternity leave would kill me. My other half knew it too. When he decided to take on the lion’s share, I don’t think it was entirely because he wanted to be with the children every day. It was probably because he knew I would have them signed up to 28 classes a week. They would have been exhausted.

“Long, relaxing baths are, to me, a waste of time. My partner will send me upstairs with a cup of tea, my book and a bathbomb and I’ll come back down 10 minutes later claiming to be refreshed.”

I do occasionally try not to be so busy just, you know, to show willing. I try and take a leaf out of sensible people’s books. You know, people who lie on beaches and read for two weeks solid. I can do this (well, not the beach bit, obviously, bleurgh) for about half an hour before I have signed myself up for a guided tour or met someone in a cafe who wants to show me his paintings (no, he really did!).

My partner and I both enjoy our own company immensely and we make a big thing about each of us going away for a few days on our own now and again. I always promise I am going to have long baths, read books, look at the sky, watch TV. Never happens. Ever. See a paraphrased example of one of my missives home on a recent jaunt to Berlin:

Hi! Having a great time. Meant to go to bed early last night but there was a band on in the hotel bar and I met someone who was organising a walk around the arty neighbourhood so I am doing that tomorrow. It’s a 7am start but I’ve always wanted to go and I never sleep on holiday anyway (It’s true, I don’t. I rise at 6am and walk the streets in case I miss something). I’ve found a really cool place for dinner. I could just eat at the hotel I suppose but if I get 27 buses and a tram I can try that weird fish that everyone talks about. It’ll be fun. There’s a show on tomorrow night. If I ran from the restaurant I could get back just in time. And I could pack in the morning to save some time. I’ve pitched a piece about that busker I met. I might have to write it on the plane…

Long, relaxing baths are, to me, a waste of time (as is sleeping, for that matter). My partner will send me upstairs with a cup of tea, my book and a bathbomb and I’ll come back down 10 minutes later claiming to be refreshed. Actually, it’s not just a claim. Relaxing doesn’t relax me!

And as for work, as a freelancer, naturally I have the hunting tendency anyway but if I have a lull, there’s no way I am going to spend it enjoying the time. I spend it spearing prey, taking on “too much” and working myself into the wee small hours. And do you know what? I love it that way! I really do. Now, where’s the other end of that candle?


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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".