I don’t think I’ve had a complete burnout in life so far but I have had brushes with it through my various chapters, several times. I started being “busy” in my senior years of high school where I cried a lot from my over-commitment issues whilst trying to maintain a personal life I was happy with. Then moments during my university life there was more crying, therapy, fainting and panic attacks. Then during my first graduate job, I found out the fainting was the result of a heart condition that has now been cured through some minor heart surgery; also, more therapy. My first practising role was actually probably my saving grace, notwithstanding a necessary relationship breakup, where I slipped into maintenance therapy and felt a bit more “control”.
I have felt pressured to succeed because I have
self-diagnosed imposter syndrome and I am my parent’s retirement plan. Now I find myself, almost 30, in a stimulating career I thoroughly enjoy but haven’t ticked off many “happiness experiences”. Framing a fast-paced satisfying but challenging career in that way, makes me understand why some highly successful people commit suicide. You’re too busy “achieving” that you have no time to “live”. Since high school, I became addicted to smashing goals that I just got used to enduring, with a splash of enjoyment; that I had to do things with wholehearted purpose, whether I enjoyed it or not. I essentially had several hats and tried to juggle them while still achieving 50 other goals at the same time. Of course that approach never works – something eventually gives. This self-inflicted pressure is a figment of success. And maybe I use it to thinly veil some tragic God-complex; doing the most to achieve my goals whilst being the best friend; daughter; sister; cousin; lawyer; indigenous person etc to show everyone I’m amazing – whilst not taking the time to actually personally feel happy and deeply satisfied with the life I’m living.
For an impending partial-burnout, my coping strategies vary depending on my mood and how bad the potential burnout is. I usually measure it in how many plans/appointments/engagements/goals are falling apart concurrently. To counter this said semi-burnout, I go into periods of solitude. My friends have probably witnessed these moments when I completely ignore the world around me, unfortunately including them, because I need to be alone and shut out any stimulus I can’t control and just have nothingness for a while.
I guess I write this in anticipation of some form of burnout this year. There will be a lot of firsts this year that will take up more emotional energy than I’ll allow myself – as always. I’ll need to find my voice a bit more. Be kinder to myself. And prepare for my mental health dips because regarding any goals I set myself – I am my toughest critic.
Lana Lopesi’s piece on burnout pinched where it hurt. A dear friend has been screaming this at me for the last 5 years, although she is just as much a “slave to success” as I am.
We all die. Yet here we are glorifying a sense of busyness that does not serve us when we’re alive, let alone when we’re dead. It literally makes us sick.
I used to walk through life feeling responsible to a community, only later to realise that community was, in many ways, a figment of my imagination. ‘Serving people’ was the self-imposed burden I thought I was carrying by writing art criticism.
My sense of self-worth was tied up with productivity – to be worthy, I felt, required a constant state of production. If what was on my plate ever started to feel achievable, I’d quickly fix that by filling it up again. It’s normal, though, right? Being busy is ordinary! It’s necessary too! Right? With job precarity in the arts we shouldn’t be saying no.
She then went on to look at “Busy as F*ck” syndrome and how it described everyone she knew. I can definitely see how it describes most people in the legal ecosystem I work in. It’s a tough space trying to carve out your advocacy style, be yourself, be relatable to the average layman as well as highly persuasive to some of the smartest people in the country. Peachy task – also slightly schizophrenic or bipolar.
It doesn’t help that I’ve set some outrageous goals this year.
- Financial/resources: Buy a house with my parents – who are at retirement age (insert several relevant gifs and memes about how ridiculous this is here)
- Physical: Run a half-marathon. I’m not the best at running. I’m semi-good at punching and lifting things.
- Career: Do 5 jury trials. Minimum. 10 is better. But I’m still a baby in this space.
There aren’t any happiness goals there. Not an overarching one at least – because they’re little ones in the form of stay-cations to keep me sane through the chaos.
So, as I wrap up this entry, I’m booking an airbnb and a wine-tour for myself in Napier for the Easter break. I have no idea who is coming with me at this stage, but I’m going, because going on road-trips make me happy. I plan on bringing some books I’ve been meaning to finish, my paddle-board (weather permitting) and my yoga mat. ❤