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To the People Who Tell Me I'm 'Too Young' to Be This Tired

I was at a friend’s BBQ recently, and I started making my good-bye rounds about 7:30 p.m. It was a Saturday, I had no plans the next day. But as I said goodbye and fielded the familiar “You’re leaving already?” questions, I smiled casually and said I was tired, and it was time for me to drive home.

“Oh, come on, you’re too young to be tired.”

As I drove home and replayed these words in my head – it should be noted that they came from people who were in their 50s and 60s, and I’m 31 – I started to cry. I felt this overwhelming sense of failure. Of not-enough-ness. Of guilt. And shame. And I wanted to crawl into my bed and try again tomorrow… maybe.

As anyone with a chronic illness can tell you, being tired is usually a light version of saying, “I’m completely exhausted.” I’ve spent the last three months or so digging myself out of the worst colitis flare I’ve had in 10 years, so even showing up to this particular party was huge for me. I had spent the entire day at my friend’s house, trying to stay awake and using her friendship and low-key pool time as a “test” of leaving the house and using energy beyond my couch. So showing up to this particular party wasn’t just a choice I made without a second guess; it was a debate in my mind, where I reviewed just how much energy I would have to pack two activities into one day. It sounds small, insignificant, silly, I know – but for me, this was a big day. It meant I was getting better, but I still needed to watch my energy levels and make sure I was being realistic.

Of course, no one really knew this whole prelude to the party, just like many people don’t know that I have to slice and dice my energy between social obligations, running – something I love to do – cleaning, going to work, having conversations, showering, walking to the mailbox… literally everything. I would love to say I’m one of those people who recharges around other humans and can just go, go, go from sun up to sun down. But I’m not, and I used to be jealous of those people. But now? I’m choosing to be realistic over jealous, and being realistic on this particular day meant I left a party at 7:30 p.m. to watch a movie alone. Because that’s what I wanted and needed to do.

I do not need to explain myself, just like I don’t ask you why you stay out past 10 p.m. when you’re middle-aged and “should need more sleep.” It’s none of my business to judge you by your age, just like it’s none of your business to assume I’m a “normal” 31-year-old woman. And it’s not your fault that your casual comment sent me into a puddle of tears during my drive. I’m always not feeling enough in my life, and I’m always working on overcoming that feeling within myself. Because I’m enough for myself most days. Getting a run in, even if it means declining a party invite, is enough for me. Saving energy for a week just to have dinner with a friend on Thursday is enough for me. Making it into the office for one day in a week is enough for me most weeks. And going to bed at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night is definitely enough for me.

So to the people who think a person’s age, or appearance, or lifestyle fully defines where their limits are, think again. There’s so much going on behind the scenes, whether it’s just that day, or that week, or the past three months. I do not feel upset that these comments are made or said; they are not intended to be harsh, I’m sure. But I won’t apologize anymore for being sensitive, or having social limits that don’t match your norm.

So yes, I am too young to be this tired. But I’m too smart to push my limits and regret it the next day. I have to go for a run in the morning.

Photo by Stacey Rozells on Unsplash