Two years ago, I was in what I not-so-affectionately call The Pit of Despair. I was burned out, miserable in my career, and fighting my own brain to be able to do what I loved. I had started a new job in the hopes that the burnout was just coming from the culture at the previous one. I was wrong.
A year and a half ago, I left that new job and took a four month break from my career (only possible due to a massive support structure for which I’m eternally grateful). I had finally been diagnosed with ADHD and was learning how to work with my brain. I felt as though I could do anything, and I was doing pretty well at it.
About a year ago, I started a new job and new career in project management, which is hilarious if you know anything about executive dysfunction, but makes sense if you know me. I was fulfilled at work, and had gone into the new job knowing that it would be a few months before I was able to have enough energy to do side-projects or hobbies agains. That’s just how job-switches affect me.
Join me in the present moment. I am still a project manager at the same company and I still find fulfillment in my work there. That is something I haven’t ever been able to say about a job until now.
But. (Did you know this was coming?)
I took time off for the winter holidays this year; 11 days straight of no work, just being at home with my partner, our dogs, and doing whatever we like. It’s been glorious–of course it’s been glorious–but it has also been eye-opening. Because without work on my mind, I have looked up and realized that I never got back to my side-projects. I never fully adjusted to the new job. I let it consume my headspace to the point where I could not tell you when I last wrote prose. There were attempts for certain, I can remember they happened. Just as I know I did some crocheting and some mending. But my garden lies untended and has for most of the year. I haven’t finished any fiber arts projects or the edits on my book. I haven’t written here or even gone down to the pond. I’m not working 24/7, of course, but when I’m not working, the energy I can muster is going to reading, cozy games, or tv because I need to just… not think.
And I don’t feel like me.
I’ve been running in survival mode. That’s what I call it. I am expending all my energy on getting through my workday (as fulfilling as it is) and then I am recharging only enough to do it again. There is no spare energy for the rest of me, and because there is no spare energy, I can feel the burnout rising. It is coming back, slowly but surely.
There is a theory that burnout can only be caused by a lack of fulfillment. Whether or not it’s accurate, it has been a helpful frame for me to use to identify what I’m feeling now. I’m not burning out because work is not fulfilling. I am burning out because the other parts of me are not being fulfilled.
There are changes coming for me in the next year–there always are, but these ones I can predict–that mean the spare energy is going to be even scarcer. If I don’t make any changes, it won’t be a matter of if I get burnt out, but when, and I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to spend time recovering. Odds are the burnout will strike much sooner than its current trajectory suggests.
All of this is to say I need a change. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but it has led me to a theme for the coming year, just in time.
The Year of Shift
I was toying with “The Year of Balance” for a bit, but I’ve long learned that there’s no perfect balance of a life. Some aspects of life will need more attention at different points of the year, and that’s okay. Instead, I’m going to focus on the idea of shift: shifting gears, shifting mindsets, shifting priorities, shifting directions, yes, but also putting in a shift in various aspects of my life, moving aspects around until they have a place, etc.
I’m leaving the theme relatively open-ended, because I have no idea what I’ll need in a week’s time, let alone a month or a year. Why try to over-define it when the whole point is to being open to what the situation needs?
I can’t promise to post more, or even ever again, but if I do, I’ll try to keep you updated on the outcomes of the theme.
Hope you’re doing well, and wishing you an excellent 2024!
P.S. Laugh with me at the fact that though I wrote this in late December, I haven’t had the time or energy to post this until now. Because if I don’t laugh, I will cry from exhaustion. At least the universe is confirming I need this theme!