The Teeming Itinerary of Life

What’s the hardest thing to do during our time on Earth?

a)    Score front-row U2 tickets b)    Score with either of the protagonists of Mr. and Mrs. Smith c)    Score a perfect performance on the balance beam of life d)    None of the above

Despite being a Bono fan and confessing to having a slight thing for Ms. Jolie, the answer is, of course, “C” (college taught me that “none of the above” is as correct as a five-day weather forecast).

Balance is something we all talk about but hardly ever achieve. Our zest for instant gratification and quick fixes allows this objective to invariably never be realized.

Think about the lucky 13 lives you lead: Day job life, gym life, dating life, drinking life (which oftentimes becomes one in the same with dating life), watching TV life (we all have shows we go on a weekly date with), account and tending to finances life, time with friends life, the two lives it takes to respond to chronic text messengers, pick up the dry cleaning and laundry life, family life, volunteering/helping others life, commuting life (which feels like death).

And lest we not overlook something we do for 5-8 hours every night: The sleeping life.

How’s this for a trend? In 1910, Americans were able to get nine hours of sleep, according to a Duquesne University study. By 1975 that total dipped to about 7.5 hours. Today the average is 6.5… a development that seems to be gradually dragging us down. The irony is that we have more modern advances than ever before to make life easier and cut down on the chores that should free up time for relaxation.

And so, I digress…

Whenever the complaint of fatigue is broached around older adults and married with children friends and family, this kind of perspective becomes a form of some hilarious unintentional comedy

“Just imagine working a full time job, having kids and worrying about a mortgage,” is the common retort.

Ah, but while that kind of lifestyle is undoubtedly difficult, scratching the constant itch of leading an existence that has far more social and career obligations can be just as fatiguing.

In one man’s opinion, anyway. . .

Walking from the PATH up Washington Street any night of the week leads me to believe I’m not the only one who’s willing to put the “to do” list on hold. The number of people drinking and smoking at bars and restaurants is almost awe-inspiring. Simply based on their proximity to NYC, one has to assume they’re part of the rat race with stressful, demanding jobs, and yet somehow make the time night-after-night to get out of the apartment and take full advantage of the Happy Hour special du jour.

When do they sleep?

When do they clean the apartment?

Pick up the dry cleaning?

Pay the bills?

Go to the gym?

Watch 24 and Entourage?

Or actually read that book that they found the time to buy at Barnes and Noble but has been helplessly bookmarked at the Prologue for three months?

All of this helps to explain why there’s a bustling Starbucks on every corner. Caffeine is our BFF before work and around 3:00 PM when a natural second wind just ain’t happening.

Which leads to the next question: When will we, one afternoon, hit that wall that only tri-athletes seem to smack into after swimming two miles, biking 100 and running a full marathon?

Because you would think that it’s only a matter of time before something internal says, “Sorry, I need to shut this train down for about a year.”

The motivating factor, of course, is that we can never be alone- never be out of touch. Another motivation is the “carpe diem” rationale, even figuring in 9/11 – we’re more aware than ever, even if it’s subconsciously, that tomorrow isn’t a guarantee, so of course getting together with friends is going to seem more appealing than doing the laundry.

And sometimes, folks just like to go out because they are accomplished at procrastinating.) Even when we do make the wise but sometimes angst-ridden decision to stay home, we still have this urge to check email, keep the phone on, have sex (which with some people can’t be characterized as a relaxing experience) and continue to wear down our retinas by staring at some form of a screen.

And even when we’re having an easy night, that still entails beating ourselves up physically at the gym…or beating ourselves up with guilt for not going.

So what’s the solution?

How do we achieve balance?

The answer appears to be sacrifice. But do we want to feel less fatigued, less dependent on Grande Hazelnuts, get in better shape and make it past Page 28 in that 450-page masterpiece?

Something’s gotta give, and the first logical items to quit cold turkey would be the socializing, the booze, the meet-ups, the volunteer work, the baby showers hosted by friends we hardly even see anymore, and the dinner with friends that cut into the prized sleeping life so much…

But are we mentally trained for such a sacrifice?

Can we really stay home from a weekend night at the Parker House or Marlin or Tuesday Martini night at the Madison if it means attaining balance?

Married people like the bring up the mortgage, but ultimately we mortgage our near futures because don’t have the ability to just say no when that email eVite for the 75th Happy Hour of the year on a Wednesday night pops into our inbox.

What if we miss the Wednesday night happy hour that turns out to be the greatest night of 2005?

That simply is not acceptable.

So we’ll continue to do what feels good at the moment. The common thinking is that balance, in all of its forms, should be reserved for our 40s somewhere in a place far, far away called suburbia…or at the very least, January and February when it’s too damn cold to leave home.


If days were extended from 32 hours from 24, maybe…

But it sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?

Joe Concha is’s senior writer and has as much balance as Daniel LaRusso, pre-Mr. Myagi. Email the author at