Sarah Jessica Parker must have a thing for playing characters that no real human can relate to. There was Carrie Bradshaw, the newspaper columnist who could afford a Manhattan apartment and an endless supply of cosmos and Manolos. There was Paula in Failure To Launch, who was a ‘relationship simulator’ (not an actual thing) who could get men to move out of their parents’ homes. And now there’s Kate, the ‘she’ in I Don’t Know How She Does It. Granted, I don’t relate to this character because I have no idea what it’s like to be a working parent (I’m still just figuring out the ‘working’ part). Nevertheless, I sort of feel like if I had a supportive spouse, a nanny, and a mid-six figures banking salary, I’d figure out how to do ‘it,’ whatever that might be. (Seriously, the movie opens with her trying to make something for her kid’s bake sale and not being able to find a 24 hour grocery store, which I just don’t believe, nor do I think it’s possible to pass off store-bought pie as one’s own, but I am also a baking snob.)
While I don’t relate to Kate’s life situation per se, I do relate to the title. I don’t know how she does it, where the ‘she’ is a lot of people I know. I don’t know how my friend who routinely puts in 14 hour days at her law firm stays not only sane, but one of the most relentlessly upbeat and caring people I know. I don’t know how my friend who’s working on her MD-PhD managed to be a bridesmaid in like 5 weddings this year without going deranged sorority girl on anyone. I don’t know how the friend who worked a full-time job while applying to grad schools, training for (and winning!) half marathons, raising money for cancer research, and also going on more dates in any given month than I have probably in my life, found the time, or the energy. Don’t even get me started on my friend who’s working, racing through grad school in record time, and just finished her first Iron Man.
These are the people I think about when I don’t know how I do it. I generally despise when people complain about how very busy their lives are, and so I won’t, but suffice it to say the past two months have been something of a perfect storm of deadlines and finals and new opportunities and while it’s all very exciting, it’s also overwhelming. I don’t like to complain because my complaints aren’t exciting or unique. We’re all very busy. (Mindy Kaling‘s book has a part where she talks about how she doesn’t consider stress to be a legitimate topic of conversation, and I tend to agree.) I’m busy, but with things I chose to do and am excited about, so my lack of free time is on me.
The point is, we’re all leading busy, exciting lives, and I don’t know how exactly any of us are doing it. But I don’t think it’s the how that matters (unless anyone’s sitting on the secret to how to function properly on about four hours of sleep, in which case, hand that over). The far more interesting and important thing is to know why we’re doing it. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of seeing everyone else being stressed and busy and anxious, and feeling inadequate if you’re not any of those things. The thing is, there’s no point in being busy for busy’s sake. There needs to be something behind that. If you’re working a crazy stressful 60 hour a week job that you hate, but it’s letting you pay off your student loans faster, that’s a reason. If you’re doing it because you can’t imagine your life without the stress, it might be time to reexamine your priorities. If you’re taking on what I can only imagine are the very stressful demands of medical school, I’d like to believe it’s out of some desire to help and heal people. If it’s because your parents/sibling/friend is a doctor and you’re just trying to keep up, that’s worrying. I’m busy, but like I said, it’s with things I’m excited about, so getting a little flustered or stressed or overwhelmed from time to time is worth it to me. If you feel the same way, just make sure it’s worth it to you. Assuming it is, then keep calm and carry on doing all the awesome stuff you do.