To say I’ve been in a rut isn’t quite a strong enough statement.
I have been ladder climbing for around 6 years after college. Trying different careers, it was a bit like putting on different masks and playing house (I’d tried my hand at playing an English teacher, tech startup writer, Digital Marketing analyst and, most recently, a project manager). I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had “drive” toward a specific passion…it was more that my career goals were to work toward a promotion. I would feel stagnant unless I got to that next level of “mastery.”
Once I got the promotions, new jobs, etc., I felt like I was stretched beyond my capabilities–an imposter in a role I hadn’t really deserved, since I didn’t have that innate talent or proclivity for it. It was like acting in a play, and I just always needed to level up because…that’s what you do. I have the urge bred into me from small-town public school to master a subject, check it off the list, and move on to the next. I have always been a little bit of a lazy person too, I’ll go ahead and say it. I would write a paper using the minimal energy possible and at the last minute because I could get away with it. It was almost a game…how little can I do to get the “A”? Hell, even just writing this post feels like above and beyond my weekend quota for work. I have a strong fear of failure and often avoid challenges. Not flattering, but we’re going to be transparent on this blog.
Yes, I would climb at work, but the more I’d focus my energies there, the more I would collapse in a heap and not work on myself outside of work. I would become increasingly complacent on the weekends, telling myself “you just need to rest a bit, just need to make it to the next break, need to make it to a vacation and recharge your batteries.” But once I was resting, I couldn’t move. I would screech to a halt and then become bitter with the thought ANY small tasks. And my duration to the finish line became smaller and smaller. It was always “just a few more days, and it will be better.” But the “better” times never really were enough to balance the scales of the difficult work weeks. I became an obsessive Gollum with my free time, only working on anything that led me toward that sacred free time.
At that particular tipping point, the problem became that I was ONLY able to do nothing. Any task was asking too much of me. I wanted to work in a Starbucks and craved boredom. All I could see was the freedom of having no pressure, no tasks and sacred time to myself without work. I wanted the ability to choose whether to do nothing or do something. If anyone called after-hours about work, I was furious and indignant at their nerve. My default state was mentally exhausted and, well, burned out.
I guess all that said (and I expended a lot¹ of precious mental energies to say it, so…yay for small victories, I guess), it’s time to admit that I want out of the rut.
I’m setting my goal here and now, and documenting on the very-public internet to make it seem legitimate: find what I care about and spend time with it.
I want to stop blaming burnout, draw the boundary lines with my job, and take those breaks I’ve been dreaming of. But not just to take breaks. I want to use those breaks productively to leave the couch and push myself past the status quo and out of the lazy trap I set for myself. Questions I hope to answer in my made-up quest:
- Do people find passions in their careers, or do you do a career as a means to fund your passions on the weekends?
- Does recharging your batteries need to include some sort of productivity before it becomes toxic?
- What can I control and how far can I detach from my job before I become a bad employee?
- How much accomplishment does one person need at work vs. personal life?
- Can a woman in 2018 find success and fulfillment in areas outside of her career and still retain her “feminist card”?
- Will any job include burnout like this? Have I picked jobs that are too stressful for my personality? Or is that a copout?
- If I disconnect from work, can I make it up and engage enough with my personal life?
Can she do it? Is she really an imposter or does she just need a different job? Stay tuned to find out…²
¹ “a lot” by comparison. That’s a very relative phrase. My mental energies on the weekend = 1 person’s normal mental energies in one minute.
² Or maybe not. Maybe this was just too much effort and now I’ll experience blogging burnout…