Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out
Stressed Out by 21 Pilots
During one of my jobs I had to sit down with a colleague to discuss a project we had been working on together. I had made careful notes in preparation for our meeting, while handling other tasks and calculating how much longer I would have to work that day to make up for having to leave earlier later in the week. At the same time I might have made a to-do-list for my after-work grocery shopping and worried about a friend who was not doing well.
As I I walked together with my co-worker to our conference room and politely asked how he was doing, he replied with a frustrated sigh, “Oh, it’s been crazy, I’ve just been so busy, just this constant load of things to do. I’m so stressed, I barely have any time.” He looked disgusted, as if someone was personally inconveniencing him. OK, the fact that I already knew him to be not the most reliable colleague and disregarding of efforts made by others contributed to the lightning-speed reaction in my head. What I thought was, Buddy, I’ve been here twice as long as you, and you think I’m NOT busy? Or anyone else?
Maybe it’s all in the wording. Maybe we react stronger to those who repeat something like the above, while not asking us how we are doing. Maybe both my natural state of positivity and my desire to maintain it drives me to say, I need to finish some things first, but I could get back to you * insert suggestion here *.
I have seen this time and time again, both in the workplace and outside of it, people who visibly do not trouble themselves or rush to exhibit involvement, commitment, dedication, discipline, who cancel plans at a moment’s notice or simply don’t show up. They are surprisingly eloquent and clear as soon as they start talking about being “stressed”, while those at their desks rarely do. Why? Simple! One group has time to talk and the other doesn’t.
We all feel stressed or tired, we all share about it. We’re all busy most of the time. Sometimes you do have a hard day and end up talking only about your own experience. But the way it seems to work normally is saying, Wow, I’m just so wiped out from today, thanks for understanding, or I did this and that and now this, I just want to put my feet up, have a nice evening. Because the truth is, most of us are regularly stressed, tired or busy. There are rare exceptions, but I can’t think of any. It’s just the way life is, and the broader issue is how to deal with it and make sure you’re alright in the process.
I also think it’s pretty galling for people with less experience and a poor track record, in any context, to confidently tell someone on the opposite end of the spectrum about the tough time they are having dealing with a sudden busy day, especially when half of what they are supposed to do ends up not being done. Again.
Whenever these encounters happen, I always come back to the same passage in one of Mindy Kaling’s books. “. . . I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. It’ll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say, “Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.”
I don’t believe anyone will ever give me a cake just like that, so I will simply bake my own.
As soon as I stop being so damn busy.