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社会学essay:蒂娜蓝的人际交流Got No Time for You-Tina Blue

Like most people I know, I am so bizarrely busy that it’s hard to actually have a life. That’s the American way, you know. We are running the Red Queen’s race, running as fast as we can just to stay in the same place. Who has time for friends or family any more? It almost seems better to avoid any close personal ties, because people just make demands on your time.我知道大多数人一样,我很奇怪的忙碌,很难有自己的生活。这是美国的方式,你知道的。我们正在运行的红心女王的种族,以最快的速度,我们不能仅仅停留在同一个地方。谁的朋友或家人更多的时间?它几乎似乎更好一些,以避免任何亲密的个人关系,因为人们只是要求你的时间。

I have a good friend (I will call her “Jane”) who is very social. She was an international student here at KU from 2000 to 2005, and although she had been in the US since 1994, she had never completely adjusted to the way we do things here. The silly girl still thought you were supposed to spend time with friends, chat, hang out. What a concept!我有一个很好的朋友(我会打电话给她的“简”)是非常社会化。她是一个国际学生在这里社会学essay KU 2000至2005年,虽然她一直在美国自1994年以来,她从来没有完全调整的方式,我们在这里做的事情。傻丫头还以为你应该花时间与朋友聊天,出去玩。什么概念!

Jane is Japanese, and like many international students, she had to learn that most Americans have little talent for friendship. We are too darned busy to be friends.简是日本人,她有许多国际学生一样,学习,大多数美国人对友谊有一点天赋。我们太该死的忙碌,是朋友。

In reality, I have always taken my friendships very seriously. I am something of a hermit, so I don’t open my life up to just anybody. As friendly as I seem to most people, I actually don’t spend much time interacting with anyone other than my very good friends, and I deliberately keep that group fairly limited in number. But those few people that I let into my life are ones that I have a genuine rapport with, people whose company I truly enjoy.

One reason why I am not willing to let too many people into my life is precisely that I like to spend a lot of time with my friends, engaging in real conversation. I also like to be available to my friends, to help them when they need help or to comfort them when they are going through difficult times. You can’t do that with hordes of people, so quality of friendship has always been more important to me than quantity.

But as the years pass, even I have found it harder and harder to be a real friend to my friends.

Take Jane, for example. (No, I mean it—take Jane. Bada-bing!)

For the last year or so that she was here at KU, I simply didn’t have time for her any more.

Like many Americans, I work so much and sleep so little that I can seldom squeeze in time for my own preferred activities. The things I most love to do, reading and writing, require not only time but solitude. I write a lot and I read books and magazines and all sorts of things on the internet. I like to know about everything, and a fair amount of what I learn goes into my writing as well as my teaching. Sure, I read for fun, but I also read because it is important to my intellectual development, and I honestly need that. For me reading is almost as important as breathing.

Back when Jane was still at KU, I had a slow dial-up connection and recurring computer problems, so reading online took too much time at home. The computer and the internet connection in my office at KU, however, were wonderfully fast in those days. Since I didn’t have to sit there and wait for every page to download, the reading I did in my office was at least four or five times faster than my online reading at home. In fall of 2004, at the beginning of Jane’s last year here, I regularly stayed in my office for an hour or two past my scheduled office hours just so I could get my internet reading done quickly and thus free up more time for other work.

After a couple of weeks, though, I quit staying in my office any longer than I absolutely had to. In fact, even during my scheduled office hours I would find myself looking over my shoulder, and sometimes actually leaving a few minutes early if I felt pretty sure that no students were going to show up that day.

That’s because of Jane. She had a couple of free periods at the same time, and as she was always a fairly lackadaisical student, it didn’t occur to her to use that time to study. No, she preferred to piddle those hours away, and she wanted me to keep her company while she did so. She started dropping by my office, uninvited, expecting me to entertain her.

If I was with a student or obviously grading papers, she understood that I couldn’t “play,” but if I was just reading on the internet, as far as she was concerned I was not doing anything important, so there was no reason why I should not stop to chat with her.

It never occurred to her that I didn’t want to stop and chat with her! I wanted to read!  Since Jane comes from a culture marked by exquisite sensitivity to the feelings of others, a culture in which one simply does not dismiss one’s friends so easily, she would have felt hurt if I didn’t stop and visit with her whenever she was in the mood for company—unless, of course, it was obvious that I was working. But reading that was not absolutely necessary for specific assignments did not seem like real work to her. She knew perfectly well that reading is my primary leisure activity, and she just didn’t consider solitary leisure activity to be more important than time spent with friends.

I can’t exactly argue with that. I also believe that time spent talking with friends is absolutely essential, not just for the health of those friendships but also for our own psychological well-being. We are social animals. We really need that sort of interaction, and we need quite a lot of it. Nevertheless, with so little free time for my own preferred leisure activities (remember, that would be reading and writing), I couldn’t help resenting any unnecessary interruption. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time talking to Jane, but I wanted her to tuck herself neatly into specific time slots, when I was not otherwise occupied.

When would those times slots be?

Well, let’s see—um, maybe not until the semester was over. Of course, she always went back to visit her family in Japan between semesters, and in the summer she also usually did a one- or two-month study abroad. Oh, my! That left only a couple of weeks total during the entire year when we were both free and not on opposite sides of an ocean!

See what I mean? Jane was not the problem. The real problem was that for too many of us, life in this country is so overburdened that we just don’t have time for friends—or even family, for that matter. In February of 2004 my adult son, Michael, was in Lawrence for a few days. I had last seen him for four days just before Christmas of 2003, and that was the first time I had seen him since his graduation in December of 2002. In other words, I had seen him a grand total of three days during the two years since his graduation! Nevertheless, although I love my son dearly, I was actually relieved that he was in Lawrence mainly to visit his girlfriend, not me. Sure, I was going to have to devote some time to him, but that could be confined to a couple of hours spent having coffee with him and his girlfriend, so it wouldn’t interfere too much with all the grading and tutoring I needed to do that weekend. (It did interfere some, though, so a few of my students got their papers back a day later that week than they otherwise would have.)

My youngest sister, Carol, lives in Lenexa, just a 30-minute drive away, yet I see her only twice a year—on my birthday and on Thanksgiving—and for only a few hours each time. Nor do we talk on the phone. She teaches ninth-grade English and she and her husband also have two (adult) kids and one grandchild living at home with them. Furthermore, their third child has three children, and of course those grandchildren also need time and attention from her, even though they don’t actually live with her. I am no longer married, and both of my kids have grown up and moved to other states, but even without family in Lawrence to use up my time, my work still keeps me frantically busy. Between the demands of work and family, Carol seldom has a free moment, and when she does, it isn’t likely to match up to any of my equally rare free moments.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember when there was time to spend several hours—whole afternoons or evenings, even whole days—with family and friends. 

Nowadays, though, many of us have to work longer and longer hours just to make ends meet. Needless to say, our employers have a lot of different ways to squeeze more work out of us. For example, many years ago my department reduced the number of sections that most adjunct faculty are allowed to teach each year, which meant that their income was drastically slashed. But even as the number of sections were reduced, class sizes were increased. Consequently, the workload remained just as high, because teaching writing courses is incredibly labor-intensive and there is always more work that needs to be done. Before I was awarded a full-time position, I was one of those adjunct faculty members whose sections had been cut. In order to make up for the lost income, I had to pick up other work, but it had to be work that I could fit around having conferences with my students and grading papers, so what I did was tutoring and freelance writing and editing. Such work is sporadic, though, so I had to take it as it came, even if it came when I was very busy with work related to my teaching. Writing, editing, and tutoring are also very labor-intensive, so that meant I often worked straight through the night instead of going to bed, no matter how tired I was.

Many of my students are equally pressed. Because of rising tuition and decreasing student aid, a lot of young people have to work long hours to pay for their own education. I had one student, for example, who worked daily from 3:00 p.m. to midnight. He had my class at 9:30 a.m., and on some days he even had an 8:00 class.  His classes ran until 2:00 in the afternoon, leaving him just enough time to get home and get ready for work. You may be thinking, so what? He had plenty of time to sleep between midnight and his first class. But what about homework? If he actually spent any time on homework, he wasn’t going to get much sleep. And then there is the matter of a life. Shouldn’t he have had a little time to, oh, I don’t know—talk occasionally with his fiancée? Shouldn’t he have had a little time to do something other than work, go to class, and sleep (and not nearly enough sleep, either)?

Jane graduated from KU in 2005 and now has a good job with a large corporation in Japan—I mean well-paid, not “good” in the sense of enhancing her quality of life. Unfortunately, most good jobs in Japan require that employees put in truly hideous hours at work. After she returned to Tokyo, Jane and I regularly kept in touch by email and phone for a few months, but once she got that job, our calls and emails began to taper off until, finally, they stopped altogether. About 18 months after she had left the US, I sent Jane a long, chatty “catch-up” email with the subject heading “I miss you!”  She wrote back saying she missed me, too, and she filled me in on all the things that had been going on in her life. A lot had happened in both our lives, so we had plenty of catching up to do. I loved hearing from her, and I immediately responded to her email. She sent a short email back, apologizing that it wasn’t longer, but her 12-14 hour workdays left her little time for writing long emails. I sent one more email, which she never responded to. I hated to keep pestering her, because I didn’t want her to feel pressured to write back if she didn’t have time. I knew that she would feel guilty if she didn’t answer my emails, so I didn’t write again when she failed to answer that last message.

        So I have lost touch with a dear, dear friend, because both of us have such busy, exhausting lives that we don’t have time to keep in touch. I now regret, more than I can adequately express, all those opportunities I missed for conversations with Jane while she was at KU, opportunities that I deliberately, stupidly avoided because I wanted to enjoy my limited leisure time without interruptions from friends.

When we have to have day planners just to manage our commitments and deadlines, then we have way too many commitments and deadlines. And when the only way we can fit our friends and family into our lives is by penciling them into a day planner—and then erasing them because other “more important” things come up—then we are leading lives that are bound to destroy us, not only physically but psychologically as well.

Modern life in the US alienates us from everything that makes life worth living. It is a constant struggle to find time for friends and family, for leisure time activity, even for sensible eating and exercise or a reasonable amount of sleep. We are not machines, but we are expected to function like machines.

Machines make really crummy friends.    (2334)

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