I’m really tired.
I’m usually really tired. If you’re at the age of adult responsibilities and reading this, you’re probably tired too.
That’s a big part of being a grown-up. I’ve had full conversations with people that consisted of nothing but how tired we both are. We offer no reasons. No solutions. No tricks to ease the exhaustion. Nope. We just repeat the fact that we’re tired to each other, sometimes citing things that we have to do later on in the day. If there’s a lull in the dialogue, one of us will usually sigh and say, “Man, I’m tired.” At the end, I’m more exhausted than when I started.
When I was a teenager, fatigue was a physical issue. It was attached to late nights. I’d hang out at the Lindenhurst Docks until six in the morning causing mayhem and mischief, only to throw some water on my face and report to school an hour later. Even then, the magic of my youth kept me rolling for hours more. It wasn’t until much later in the day that it would all catch up to me. When it did, a quick nap did the trick and I was back in classic form – ready to embark on a night that would surely include diner coffee and french fries at three o’clock in the morning.
For adults, though, tired isn’t just physical. It’s so much more. I find myself emotionally exhausted or psychologically semi-conscious some days and the real concern is that I’ve become so accustomed to it that I usually don’t even notice. It’s become part of my background noise and a running theme that I’m left accepting without a second thought. It’s just a fact of who I am.
I know that the root of my wiped out state isn’t physical because I can still do pretty intensive things while mentally feeling this week. I can push myself through at the gym even while my brain reminds me of the hundreds of other things I need to do. I wake up in the morning, feeling strong in my movement, but already half asleep in my head. The balancing act of responsibilities, no matter how big or small, can be overpowering.
That’s an important point to make. In no way am I implying that the work I have to do is some sort of massive labor. I’m not building pyramids or establishing democracy in a war-torn nation. I’m going to basketball practices and on supermarket runs. It’s not about what I’ve done or will do. It’s about thinking of them and trying to find a way to make the pieces of time fit together like a Tetris board.
Another important point is that I’m not alone here and I’m not trying to portray my life as more difficult than anyone else. In fact, most of these parental stop-off points are full of the same exact people with the exact same tired brains. You see moms and dads struggling to balance a pile of jackets and duffel bags on a folding chair next to them as they watch their kids swim through a one-way mirror. When the half hour is up, all of us zombies stand up in near unison, get our kids, and head to the next adventure – often oblivious of how we even got there.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m not complaining. I know that sounds weird. I just wrote about eight paragraphs about how I’ve been tired for over a decade but it’s not a negative. It’s just a fact. Not only that, but it’s a reminder that, well, not to brag, I’m pretty important.
When I was a teen, I was never emotionally exhausted because nothing I did was all that consequential. Sure, you might have classwork or a job to punch in for, but your successes and failures didn’t change anyone’s life in a major way. If I decided one day to pack a bag and move across the globe, I could have. You hear stories like that. Sure, it might have caused some minor issues that mostly affected me. But ultimately, I was expendable in the young life that I had built at that point. I was just starting.
Being tired as a grown up is a sign that you matter. You’ve created a life where you’re needed. Whether it’s at home, work, or in your community, people rely on you. Mentally listing all of your responsibilities is enough to drain all the energy from your body. The thoughts of all the things you have on your to-do list, whether big or small, can weigh on your shoulders heavier than any backpack you wore in your youth.
To me, that fatigue is a reminder of how vital I am to the daily lives of those around me. There once was a time when I was rarely tired. One day, there will be a time when I’m rarely tired again. In between, though, I’ll embrace the exhaustion and remember it as the time in my life when I was most important.