Burnt Out (With Luggage)

Dillinger Days - Tucson

Burn-out has always been one of those things that happens to other people, not me. The kind of situation where you shake your head and say, “Well, I saw that coming, they were doing too much and it was bound to happen sooner or later. So-and-so really needs to learn to take care of themselves.”

I, on the other hand, was someone with a good balance. Sure, there was a full-time job and an increasing amount of family-related responsibilities to deal with, but passion, people, passion. It’s what you do to reach those lofty heights of something you love.

Everything seemed to be ticking along without any issues. Okay, my ambition for my day job went from being a wrinkly, mostly-deflated balloon to a wrinkly scrap of rubber, but I reasoned that was perfectly normal for someone who never really liked the job to begin with. Perhaps I was spending more time hiding in my room and avoiding my family, but that’s just how family works, right? Beginning to put off the account management and all the issues that had to be sorted as part of our family’s business was just my lack of interest in it to begin with. And stuff like exercise–time-poor, remember? Gotta have priorities and that certainly wasn’t up there.

On the writing side, maybe I was having trouble rounding up contributors and articles for the website where I’m a technology editor, but really, people these days. And well, poor Neil here was getting my articles closer and closer to the end of Wednesdays, but… okay, I had no excuse on that one.

Then I spent the better part of last Saturday blatantly ignoring everything urgent, and spent the day gaming instead. It was then that I started thinking something might be wrong. I’d always thought of burn-out as being perpetually tired and exhausted, which certainly wasn’t the case. I had energy, I simply had no motivation to do anything with it beyond passive activities such as reading and, of course, gaming. Watching movies was certainly up there, though I drew the line at TV shows as I didn’t want to get dragged into a good 20 or 30 hours of a series–that’s still a bit too much guilt for me to bear. (No, rationality does not play a very big part in such reasonings.)

And I got to thinking–perhaps burn-out isn’t what I always believed it to be. Perhaps you don’t have to be tired all the time. Perhaps you simply have to be stretched so thin that you’re not sure how much more you have to give. I hadn’t exhausted myself physically or even mentally, but I’d exhausted the part of me that cared passionately when it came to, well, just about anything.

It’s been a strange experience for me. I’m the kind of person who feels like I’m wasting my spare time if I’m not doing something that’s either for my family, my faith, or for furthering my writing career. It’s been this way for the past 3 years, ever since I decided to get serious about writing. Yet here I am, ignoring all my responsibilities to, quite frankly, bum around. There’s a mix of guilt and relief, with a hint of frustration on the edges.

I’ve had to admit to myself that yes, I am burnt out. I’ve been trying to juggle too much, for too long. I’ve dropped the eggs and now they’re dripping down my face. And you know what? It feels good to acknowledge it, and get around to doing something about it.

It’s just as well, then, that I’m about to head off on a holiday that’s been in the works for about half a year now. It’s only a few weeks, but it’s a chance to cut myself off from the rest of the world and my friends while I take on the French countryside with nothing but suitcases (and a car). I’ll also be taking a break from these articles while I’m gone. I’ll be back at the end of April, however, refreshed and remotivated… and I’m excited to see what will come next.

In the meanwhile, if you’re also in such a slump, don’t forget: It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to rest. You will thank yourself for it later.


Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.

Photo by Bill Morrow, via Flickr

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