The Glorification of Exhaustion: Handling the Chaos of Everyday Life

7:22:00 AMVeronica Buehnerkemper

I realized this year that I have never truly appreciated the meaning of the word ‘busy’. Between my five classes, three jobs, several extracurricular activities and some sense of a social life, it is a miracle that anything on my to-do list gets done.

My rising generation is overcommitted. I am experiencing this generation-wide overcommitment firsthand. We allow ourselves to be caught in a constant state of ‘busy’. We then proceed to use ‘busy’ as an excuse. An excuse to avoid people we don’t want to give our ‘precious’ time to. An excuse to be distracted in conversation. An excuse to avoid commitments we don’t want to make. An excuse to skip out on commitments we have already made. An excuse to be glued to our phones and social media to stay ‘connected’ with our peers and our schedule. An excuse to binge-watch Netflix as ‘much needed down time’. We can place ‘busy’ above whatever we want in our lives, and it’s okay because everyone understands.

These tasks and responsibilities which fill up our calendars are important for one reason or another.  To quote Hildebrand, they “assume a character of importance because of their suitability to appease an urge or an appetite in us.” 1 Just as water becomes important for one who is thirsty, so too these things hold some importance for us. But why are they important?  What is the appetite within us that leads us to consider these things important? Many different appetites motivate us:  avoiding  boredom, desiring  to be the best by doing the most, even wanting  to fit in with the rest of the busy, exhausted world.  But there must  be something beyond these objects themselves. What lies beyond the façade of priority we give them?

More fundamental than the importance we place on our list of priorities is their intrinsic value. Hildebrand describes value as “an ultimate datum” in that it may be “grasped solely in an original intuition… is un-deducible… [and] is a fundamental datum which we necessarily always presuppose.”2 Value is important in itself; it is intrinsically worthwhile. Value is meaningful and demands a reverent response. There is an innate sense of the value in things which can be known. We often fail to recognize this value, because we are too focused on finishing the to-do list.   Hildebrand goes on to say that, “in pointing to the value of something we give a much more intelligible raison d’être for its existence than we could possibly give in any neutral final cause.”3 Aside from some perceived goal, there is a deeper dimension to our activities that makes them  worth our time. We must look beyond the single class or task and examine the role being fulfilled. What is the value in being a student or an employee? Where do we see the value in those we are in community with? We must answer these questions and be ready to make a change in our lives and priorities.

At least in the big picture, we easily recognize the importance in what we are doing. After all, we have allowed these good and important priorities to take over our lives. But the question becomes: is the behind-the-scenes, backstage work valuable? Is there a place for the smaller stuff in the bigger picture? How do we prioritize between important and less important? 

There is  an aspect of value in almost all that we do. But there is also a certain extent to which we may need to reevaluate our commitments. We must determine if we are appropriately balancing our roles and responsibilities with other aspects of our lives. One way to do this is to examine them in terms of their value.

All in all, you know what you need to do. So do it. This may mean learning to say "No" to a commitment. One that you are only taking on to add to your resume. Or one that is of high value but would take away from some other thing with the same or higher value. Sometimes it means saying yes. Saying yes to that encounter with a friend. Saying yes to some work that will benefit a greater good. In any case, allow yourself to recognize the true value in what you are doing. Sometimes you do need to slow it down. Stop the glorification of exhaustion and acknowledge the value in your life.

(1) Von Hildebrand, Christian Ethics, 87.  
(2) Von Hildebrand, Christian Ethics, 87.  
(3) Von Hildebrand, Christian Ethics, 96.  

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