It all started on a typical Friday night in my tiny, slanted apartment. I sat at the kitchen table, lingering for the warmth of the oven I’d just used to cook dinner. My attention had shifted to healthcare plans due to an impending enrollment deadline when the familiar panic rose in my chest – what was I doing? I switched between HDHPs and PPOs, scrupulously researching their features, because I’d somehow convinced myself that if I knew the difference, I’d be able to make a decision. The way I’d seemed to always convince myself: If I know more about it, then it’ll be easier to decide. But that’s hardly ever the case, is it? Frustrated, I surrendered to the fact that no one teaches you this in school and picked whatever sounded best at first glance. We’ll see if I regret that later. I thought pressing the “submit” button would bring a wave of relief. Instead, it brought a pang in my nose as salty tears pushed their way upward.
What was I doing?
I guess that wasn’t where it all started. Earlier that day, I’d gotten coffee with a wonderful lady and fellow creative soul. She’s spunky and bright, with just the right amount of fearlessness to match her ambition. We sat at the coffee shop together and rehashed the latest in our lives. I updated her on my work and listened as she told me about her new grad program. My breath caught as she shared about her upcoming month-long studio course in Europe next year. A month in her own studio, to create whatever she wanted. I tried, but failed, to hide my instant enchantment. Dedicated time and space to just…create? That existed? We said our goodbyes, but I couldn’t shake the idea as I walked home. I fantasized about booking an apartment, a room, really any place, where I could sit and write, or edit photos, or mold clay, or sing, or draw. I don’t even draw and I barely sing, unless I’m cooking and Maggie Rogers is on full volume. Oh, I could cook too!
Suddenly, the flood of realization washed over me. I am so, so burnt out.
I create on a daily basis for my job. I love it and I’m good at it, which usually works out well. But lately, I’ve been looking at my projects and feeling tired, passive, stuck, restless…just generally burnt out. As someone who gets energy from people and ideas, this is a bit of a conundrum.
I should also mention that I’ve been researching burnout for a while now. I’ve read every article available online (if you’re interested, this piece by Anne Helen Peterson changed my life) and have mapped out the symptoms like a Bingo card, where five in row means you win. Well, win at being burnt out, which I suppose is probably the opposite of winning. So you lose when you win. What a strange thought. I’ve even added books on the topic to my Amazon cart, but, as a burnout aficionado might have guessed, I never buy them because it feels like too much work. Ironic.
I’ve seen burnout play out in so many different ways. A lot of “I quit my job one day” and “I went on vacation and realized I had a different calling”. And not to hate on that method, because I may very well find myself doing some “Eat Pray Love”-style journey in the future, but I mostly just don’t want to reach that point. I suppose that’s why I’m writing this here, in a way that feels equal parts vulnerable and nonsensical, to you, whoever you may be. If you’re burnt out too – welcome to the club! If you’re not, you lucky duck, I hope you can always honor that level of mental space. And if you can’t, that’s OK too. We’ll be here.
Anyway, I’ve said for years now that I want to start writing again. And a part of me was serious each time. But this time, I’m doing it not just because I want to, but because, as I realized during a phone call with my crazy-supportive boyfriend, I desperately need to create something of my own. Voilà – here we are!