If you haven’t read the article on Burnout by Buzzfeed, check it out here: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work
I saw this come through TheSkimm morning news, I think(?) and I thought it was an article on how Millennials smoke too much weed or something.
I started to read and still I thought ok, so we’re burnouts because we don’t like the Post Office? I’m not saying that’s wrong, but not sure I get it.
It took me about 5 paragraphs in, to really get that no, I’m not a burnout because I never take care of my “adulting” details, but that I don’t do those things because I am FUCKING BURNT OUT.
Here’s the weird part…. I had no idea I was burnt out, which is the brilliance of this article.
I had not a sliver of an idea that I am seriously operating and living in a state of consistent burnout.
I thought, no. They’ve got this wrong, I’ve been burntout before.
As a high school freshman, I was in theater, and playing soccer, and involved with church and choir and band, and the day I quit the HS soccer team in tears was the biggest relief, but also the biggest guilt trip. I remember crying as I turned in my uniform and one of my favorite teachers pulled me aside to give me a quick analogy how life is like a plate of Chinese takeout; you may order a lot of boxes, but your plate is only going to fit so much food at once.
A well meaning tip, but what he should have told me is that your plate should only hold as much food as you can eat comfortably and it is ok if that plate doesn’t look full at all times. Because as HS progressed (through the pressure of a mother, who’s dream was for me to get a degree and I am the first woman on my mom’s matrilineal side of the family to earn a 4 year degree) I loaded more and more onto my plate. I was in Model Legislature, I took AP classes I had no business in (Hi, Economics!) and AP classes I couldn’t enjoy (Hi, English!) because I was also in Marching Band, Concert Band, Jazz Band, Funk Band, Choir, Acapella Group, Women’s Group, Church Youth Group, Church Choir and Drama Club. By the end of my senior year (never mind the hell scape that was my broken home life, which I worked tirelessly to hide) I was skipping school, failing most of my classes, in danger of not graduating and suicidal. I didn’t get the help I needed until my guidance counselor, my HS principle and AP English teacher witnessed me have a breakdown in front office. And by help I needed, I mean I saw a therapist, took two days to relax and went back at it.
Now THAT is burnout and I’ve been functioning quite well since then, thank you very much.
Except, maybe I haven’t. Maybe I’ve learned my absolute limits, but I am still an efficiency obsessed workaholic who takes on too much and feels deep guilt about relaxing or saying no. I mean sure, I haven’t gone postal on anyone, but my teeth are ground completely flat from gnashing them compulsively.
I do yoga because it counts as a workout and selfcare (two birds one stone!). I get mad about staying late at work not because I want to go home and relax, but because I want to go home and do work I care about. I don’t just watch TV, I have to knit because I need to create something or I feel useless. I literally typed an email today saying that the reason I will never be a party person ever again is because, and I quote myself here, “I cannot justify that kind of fun without a payoff”. I didn’t really elaborated, but now I get it. Those kind of things, adulting and even just mundane fun, are just not high on my priority list because I am under a constant (albeit I am told it is not real) pressure to Do Something That Matters.
Apparently, deep down in my psyche I have a hard time justifying seeing friends because I need to be DOING things that is worthwhile and profitable. So, kudos to my few friends; ya’ll have passed my absurd qualifications of enriching my life in a way I deem profitable.
I’m kind of joking, but just kind of. Until I read the term Errand Avoidance, I did not even recognize the behavior was indicative of anything other than a place I was failing as an adult. I’m not avoiding people or things when I don’t answer my emails or texts or call you back, I am literally just wrapping my head around the things that need to be done urgently and the things that can wait. Unfortunately, it appears the things that can wait just get slid down to the bottom of my to do list and off into never-happening-land.
I mean, even my self care is prioritized as something I have to do. If, for no other reason than to avoid going fully postal. So yes, if you even had to ask, my face mask does trump mailing your book back because while I’ve had your novel in a box ready to ship for about a year, if I don’t put this facemask on and breath for 5 minutes I’m going to lay down in traffic.
I want to say that the article changed me. That I read it and did a 180 in my life; quit my job, became a monk and lived deliberately all of my remaining days.
But as I wrote this post I literally took a call committing to another project. I hope, as it is the hope of all Burnout Millennials, that I’ll achieve something to make me feel like I deserve to relax and have friendship more than just each time I have a small breakdown or a bought of anxiety inducing guilt.
But I’ll have to think about that later.