When people ask me how I’m doing, I usually respond honestly: “Pretty good, but definitely tired.” There is of course a scale of responses people offer, from the kind and thoughtful, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What’s got you tired?” to the awkward (but probably accurate) “Yeah, you look it.” However, my absolute least favorite is laughter followed by “Why would you be tired?”
Thankfully, I haven’t gotten this response in a little while. But last time I did was a week that I spent juggling my one steady part-time job, one freelance design job, two housesitting jobs, three babysitting jobs, plus a dentist appointment and the usual errands. It is no longer normal that an employed person — whether they have one full-time or multiple part-time positions — works the standard 40 hours a week. Unfortunately, these days people are often working far more than that. Need proof?
- The week I just described, I did some rough math and I spent a little over 85 hours working. Now, this is skewed some by the fact that I was housesitting, but I did not count hours between 11 p.m. and 7 or 8 a.m. when I was asleep. I also did not count commute time and did not count overlapping hours when I was doing multiple jobs (such as designing while housesitting).
- A friend who is training at a current job is encouraged not to do overtime yet — but in order to finish projects, still averaged 9-hour workdays this week.
- My mom is a teacher, and is usually at her school for 8 to 9 hours a day, plus whatever work she brings home — usually several hours’ worth.
- During my senior year of college, one of my friends was trying to balance an 18-unit course load and six other jobs. Some of them were only a few hours a week, but at least one was never less than 20, and this was on top of being a full-time student.
- Gallup published the results of a study in 2014 showing that adults employed full-time in the U.S. are averaging 47 hours per week, with half of respondents saying they work more than 40 hours.
I’m not going to delve into the health and quality of life side effects, but it is absolutely impossible to deny that a lot of us are working our butts off. And what that looks like is different for each of us, but this is why it bothers me so much when people question why someone my age would be tired. There is no shame in being busy; most of us are, and sometimes it’s necessary. But there is also no shame in being exhausted, and there is no age limit on that.
That said, I’m not sure any of us enjoys being tired. There are lots of ways to help: intentional time to relax, light exercise, sleep, or even scale back if you need to. Make sure that whatever schedule you set up isn’t going to burn you out or make life completely miserable. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be long days or weeks or seasons. In the midst of those, the important thing is to keep going, and to remember you’re not alone.