I am currently burned out. This feeling, however, is not foreign to me at all. I have been burned out many times in my life before, too many in fact to recount with any high degree of accuracy.
I have never complained about being burned out, nor do I feel I have the right to. My modus operandi has always been to follow difficult, albeit rewarding, paths and to do so voluntarily and deliberately. And in doing so I had to accept that there would be downsides.
In my work, in my career, I have been on a learning curve since 1996 and it's still ongoing. I have been burned out after working offshore, after losing dozens of nights of sleep writing code, after seeing whole projects fall through when they looked like a sure thing and much work had been put into them. I know the feeling all too well.
But almost always in the past, I would push myself through and just execute what I had to execute, complete what I had to complete. It's an excruciatingly difficult thing to do, to push hard when you are burned out. It's probably a stupid strategy. I know it's one that brings deep depression and unhappiness. But in those times, nothing was as excruciating as the thought of failure. Caffeine, steroids, uppers, performance enhancing drugs ... none of them can even come close to fear to move one forward.
I don't feel like judging those periods in my life, that part of my past. It happened. I did what I did due to the circumstances at the time and the way in which I interpreted them, the way in which my world view showed them to me. It was what it was.
One of the habits that I have developed over the years is to look at the circumstances around me, and see if current strategy can still work, or is still relevant. Keeping the same strategy when things change around me is not the way I want to work, to be. We are all possibilities. We are all capable of evolving, of adapting.
I have been burned out before. I am burned out now. But this is the first time I have been burned out at 48 years old. This is the first time I have been burned out after my Father passed away. This is the first time I have been burned out after we had to put down Ginger. This is the first time I have been burned out and can't kiss my Mom. This is the first time I have been burned out in a fucking worldwide pandemic.
Clearly, c..l..e..a..r..l..y the circumstances have changed. The environment has changed. Shouldn't the strategy to handle the burn out change as well? I am leaning toward ... “Of course it should Emile, you fucking idiot”.
There is also another first. It's the first time in my life that I can work for 1 hour a day answering student questions and still have income at the end of the month to cover all expenses and save.
Clearly, once again, circumstances have changed.
So based on this, I thought that I would want to handle this burnout differently.
So let's see ... what does that mean exactly?
I can't do the self-imposed deadlines for a while. I need a break from them. I am emotionally and creatively drained. But I don't want to spend my days staring at the TV (yuck) or sleeping. I like to learn. I like to tinker with new software and hardware. So, for me, for one aspect, getting back on track means working on the new courses I have planned, but at whatever pace I choose. For the first time in my life, at whatever pace I choose. I so know my “inner-asshole” is going to fight me on that, but I will win.
It means that I can take time to be sad, to be depressed, to be down, to feel like zero, to feel the pointlessness. To miss Dad, his face, his deep voice, the conversations about the workshop. To miss burying my nose in Ginger's soft fur and feeling her want to run away ha ha. And more, so much more to miss.
The circumstances have changed. So the strategy must change. This time I will not be “heroically” bulldozing my way through my burnout. This time the intention is to take deep breaths in and out, and move slowly through it, unscheduled all the way.
Let's see how this feels.