I'm Not Impressed That You're Exhausted

Tiredness is not a goal. It is not a prize. It can be a byproduct of a job well done, but it can also be a sign that you’re too hard on yourself.
Publish date:
September 12, 2013
having it all, feeling tired, exhaustion, type-a personalities, M

You know those people that talk about how tired they are because they’re always doing really important things late at night like helping kids with their homework and writing the next great novel and “having it all”? Or those people who work a full-time job, sell handmade, eco-conscious nipple chafing cream on Etsy, and keep their house looking like something off the cover of Dwell?

They are tired, but it’s fine, because they are just tired. Other than that, they’re fabulous. Look at how much they get done.

I used to be like that, but NO MORE. These days, if I complain about being tired, it’s because I was up late watching JUST ONE MORE episode of "House of Cards" or "Star Trek" or something. Occasionally, I will stay up late (like midnight) writing, but usually I get that done earlier and then feel like I need to watch TV for some reason. To “unwind” or some bullshit.

What I’m saying is when I stay up late and come into work sleep-deprived, it is never something to brag about. It is never virtuous. It’s like “Oh, I was up until 1 AM because I drank too many pickletinis and had to listen to all my Rolling Stones records and Instagram the cover art.”

Also, I had to take a lot of pictures of Angie.

But there are others who wear there exhaustion like a purple heart. Like exhaustion is an indication of an important and meaningful life. I have a co-worker who likes to remind me that I have ALL THE TIME at my disposal because I don’t have kids, and I guess he’s right. I just spent two hours playing Tetris Attack. I do have time on my hands. I’m just not very good at managing it.

But there seems to be this idea that if you’re not tired, you’re not trying hard enough. Maybe it’s just me, but women like Sheryl Sandberg make me feel like I’m just not pulling my weight as a person. I should be updating my personal blog, brewing another batch of beer, learning SEO, and getting up earlier to go to the gym and/or blow dry my hair, but I get tired just thinking about it.

Technically, I do have the time to cook a healthy dinner every night, and write, and work out. The hours are there. But, it would be a non-stop day that would result in me being perpetually tired. I know there are women (and men) who live like this. I don’t think I could.

“Perpetually tired Claire” is a creature from the abyss.

The thing is, in spite of what I may say during job interviews, I’m not a very good multi-tasker. I make checklists and work through them methodically, one item at a time. When I write, I usually devote the entire evening to it, so I don’t feel stressed to finish writing so I can get other things done. And then after I’m done writing I feel like I deserve to watch TV or play Tetris Attack or drink a cocktail and take selfies with my dog.

Could I spend that time learning something new to help forward my career or working out? Probably. But, I’m pretty sure I would get really grumpy really fast.

I consider myself a “retired A-type personality.” In my teens and during the first two years of college, I was obsessed with being an exhausted bad ass. I was going to maintain a 4.0 and become a veterinarian and win awards on the forensics squad and lose 10 pounds. I stayed up late studying and drank a lot of coffee. I wrecked my adrenal glands. I stress-vomited in the shower.

I also bragged about how tired I was. It was proof that I was doing everything I should be doing. It meant I was winning life. It became a competition between me and my friends. We would list our projects, our tasks, our hours of sleep and our cups of coffee.

Once I realized I didn't want to be a veterinarian (and subsequently realized I wasn’t going to be a doctor of any kind), I felt like a failure, but I also felt relieved. I could be a person who “only had a B.S.” But it took me a long time to get over that feeling of “you could be spending this time more productively” whenever I would watch TV, or play on my Wii, or take a nap.

I didn't deserve a nap. Only people who live up to their full potential deserve naps. Only people who are working to be the best possible version of themselves deserve naps. People like me, who work a full-time job but only write once or twice a week and work out about as frequently, don’t deserve naps.

But that’s all bullshit. You know who deserves naps? EVERYBODY. Naps are WONDERFUL and everyone should experience them as often as they like.

If you want to work yourself to the point of exhaustion and win the game of life, that’s great. Incinerate the candle at both ends. But maybe only do it if it makes you happy. Because tiredness is not a goal. It is not a prize. It can be a byproduct of a job well done, but it can also be a sign that you’re too hard on yourself.

It is possible to be happy and tired, not for me, but for some people, I’m sure. But remember that you are in the best position to care for you. You are paying much closer attention to your accomplishments than anybody else (unless you have a nemesis, those assholes are notorious for keeping track of your victories/downfalls). My friends and family don’t really care if I write two posts a week or three posts a week. They like that I write, but only because I like writing. I was a miserable fucker to be around when I was trying to maximize my existence. I’m a lot mellower now, and a lot more pleasant to be around.

So if staying up late making regular and gluten-free cookies to help raise money for abandoned hairless cats makes you happy, then god speed.

I’m going to go drink some gin and go to bed.