[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
I’m writing because I can’t seem to get past this feeling of being too overwhelmed to do anything with my life. I’m lucky because I have a lot of opportunities to realize my dreams, and I know the things I really want to do in life, but when I start to actually think about what it will take to make them a reality, I get completely exhausted and overloaded from just thinking about all the work required. It makes me feel lazy and then I get discouraged. It’s like a vicious cycle. You seem to do so much in your life. I get drained just thinking about your schedule. How do you pull it off? How do you not feel overwhelmed?
Too Much Work
Dear Too Much Work,
I feel overwhelmed the whole time. I’m constantly in a state of being overwhelmed — so much so that I’ve basically just maxed out on that feeling. It barely even registers anymore. At the same time, when I think back, I realize that all the best and most incredible times in my life were also the most intense and overwhelming. It’s just a feeling that’s always there, so I don’t even notice it anymore — kind of like breathing — you only really freak out once you stop doing it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel completely pushed to my limit. It’s how life feels to me, and I imagine a lot of other people too, including you. Maybe the fact that you feel that way isn’t the problem. Maybe the only problem is thinking it’s a problem.
The trick is simple: You don’t really have to pay too much attention to those feelings — like being overwhelmed or tired or afraid. You don’t have to take those sensations too seriously. Just don’t respond to them anymore. Be too busy partying and trying to not waste your life to bother slowing down just because you feel crazy or worn out. In fact, that’s how you can tell you’re really living each day for all it’s worth — feeling like if you were to die tomorrow, could you honestly say you went out giving all you had toward this chance to live? That’s definitely what I want to shoot for as much of the time as possible. And I don’t care if it’s completely draining or if people think it’s unrealistic. It just seems like the only appropriate way to approach life, at least to me.
Think of it like this: How hard is doing stuff, anyway? Assuming that we’re among those lucky enough to have generally good health and the freedom to pursue our happiness and destiny, how hard is the rest of the work we actually have to do, really?
What’s the worst that can happen? We feel really tired? We get beaten down a few times and have some setbacks? We get frustrated and discouraged? So what? That’s really not that bad, as far as truly hard things in life go. We have to just set those feelings aside and see them as just another part of the process of this adventure. We’ll get through all those obstacles, and we’ll look back and realize that it wasn’t really that hard after all. Sure, we got exhausted — maybe even completely obliterated at times — but that feeling passed and the glory of having gone through those ordeals and not giving up lasts forever. We can always hold on to the fact that we made it out the other side, and that always overpowers even the most painful memories of suffering. Plus, it builds confidence in our ability to deal with discomfort and helps us keep on going next time we feel like giving up.
There really is no greater feeling than the pain of challenging yourself and pushing yourself as hard as you can go, and just not stopping. It’s just a simple choice: Do Not Give Up. It’s never as bad as that voice in your head tries to tell you it will be. You can experience all sorts of feelings and fears and just keep moving forward, one step at a time, and you will get there. Even if it’s hard. Even if it’s overwhelming and exhausting. You can really do hard things, and you will, and you are. And maybe someday you’ll think back to when you read this, and realize you’ve really come a long way.
There are literally millions of people who would give anything to have the chance to be overwhelmed by an opportunity to work hard at their dreams. Besides, who really wants to just rest all the time? Life isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be amazing. Now let’s go do as much as we can before we die. We’re in it to win it, and we’re in it together. This is urgent. This is overwhelming. This is partying. This is life.
More:Ask Andrew W.K.