Quite Frankly

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Hey Frankie,

You ever feel like your life is just a never-ending list of responsibilities and things to do? Sometimes I find myself daydreaming of being on a tropical beach sipping a piña colada, after having checked off every last bit of minutiae on my to-do list. However, a part of me realizes that this day will never come. How do you mentally break out of this rut of eternal busyness?

Sincerely,
I have a paper due tomorrow


Dear Procrastinator,

Quite frankly, when you figure it out, let me know.

I mean, there are all kinds of self-care acts in the world, some of which effectively combat the rat-race mindset. I remain unconvinced that any of these can ameliorate the core of the issue you’ve identified here. We can throw around terms like “work-life balance” and “attention management” and “for the love of all that is holy, just stop procrastinating for no reason whatsoever” all we want, but those don’t solve busyness— they just give us a way to handle it more effectively. Or that’s the hope, at least. I’m not going to spend any time going through these methods. You can Google just as well as I can.

I don’t just feel like life is a never-ending list of responsibilities and things to do; it literally is. According to one philosophical school, life is definitionally never complete, but consists in our striving toward unattainable ends. When I repeat one of my mantras, “Life is hard, and then you die,” I’m speaking from this philosophical viewpoint. But the beauty of this saying lies in its two possible interpretations: One is bleak, and one leans a bit more to the optimistic end of the spectrum.

Let’s start with bleak. That way, there’s nowhere to go but up. No matter what you do, no matter how much you accomplish, there will always be the crushing weight of an endless procession of tasks. That sucks. It’s overwhelming, never-ending and soul-crushing.

Here’s the optimistic version. If life consists of all our endless strivings, each striving is an invaluable part of this weird, multi-faceted thing we call life. Sure, each item on the to-do list is annoying. But you’re here, getting the opportunity to be annoyed by menial tasks. And that, I think, is an important part of what being human means.

If you can plug in, you can feel what you’re feeling and recognize your everyday struggles as steps toward a life more populated with diverse ideas and experiences. Every reading that you don’t want to do, every paper you barely turn in by the deadline, is another chance to fill in life’s infinite blanks.

Best Wishes,
Frankie

P.S. You caught me at a pretty bad time to give a cheery encouragement that things will get better. But maybe it’s better to con- front reality than to offer platitudes.

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