A Simple Solution for Burnout
In an entry in my personal journal on February 3rd, 2018, I wrote that I thought I might be burnt out.
For those keeping track at home, that was over eight months ago.
Why I Have Hesitated To Talk About Burnout… Until Now
One of the primary reasons I didn't bring up what I was going through here on my blog is that most employers don't want to read that their employees are burnt out… and I've still had a full time job these past eight months. But there was another reason I never wrote about it: I generally hesitate to talk about problems that I don't have a solution for. And I didn't know what to do about it.
Another issue I've had with the burnout conversation as I've seen it presented elsewhere: I think we need to acknowledge that having a job is a privilege, and having the option to address burnout is also a privilege.
There are millions of people in the world right now who are unemployed or underemployed, looking for more or better work. There are millennials who graduated just a few years ahead of me, directly into the middle of a recession, that are still working on digging their careers out of the hole they started in (and they will likely be digging out of that hole for years to come). Many people around the world would never dream of using the word "burnout", because they are living day to day on the next days wages. And whether they are happy or not, there is no option to take a break from work when the few dollars you'll earn tomorrow are the only thing between you and starvation.
I am thankful that I've been able to work and earn an income that has allowed me to save money. I recognize that it has been a privilege, and it isn't a privilege that everyone has.
But at some point, even at the risk of being labeled 'just another entitled millennial' (or whatever the media is calling my generation these days), I need to be honest about my current reality.
This is that point.
An Entire Life Spent Prioritizing Work
I was raised with a pretty uncompromising view of work: you work as hard as you can to get and keep a good job, and you never leave that job for any reason.
I started my first job two weeks after I turned 15. By the time I graduated high school, I was working two part-time jobs… a trend that continued for much of my college career if you count jobs and internships. And if you are a from a background like mine, you know I didn't really take unpaid internships. Because I recognized that learning was important, but earning was always more important.
Learning for the sake of learning isn't a popular concept in the working middle class.
The only reason to go to college is to earn more money when you get out than you could earn when you went in.
So I spent my entire life doing exactly what I was supposed to do to get a good job.
Even before turning 15 and getting my first job, I was lining up excellent grades with good standardized test scores and extracurricular involvement so that I could lock in the scholarships that would help me pay for college. Six months before graduating college, I signed an offer to work in corporate finance in the Fortune 100. I requested and was granted the earliest possible start date that company would give me after I walked across the stage at graduation and received the first bachelor’s degree in my family.
That walk across the stage was almost five and a half years ago.
Aside from a week in between that first job and my current role, I haven't had more than two weeks off work consecutively since graduation.
I know what you may be thinking, because it's the way I was raised to think too: ‘duh, you haven't had any time off work in five and a half years. Neither have most people who work full time. And most of those people haven't had any time off in forty years.’
Believe me, I get it. ‘Tough it out’ and all that.
But sometimes, you just have to quit trying to tough it out and do what's right for you.
Even if it earns you a few eye rolls.
Sometimes, The Simplest Solution Is The Best Solution
This past week, I put in my two week's notice at work.
I don't want to imply that the only way to deal with being burnt out is to up and quit your job: I'm sure there are other, less extreme options. But as I mentioned earlier in this post… I wasn't able to come up with any solutions that I thought would help my personal situation over the past eight months.
Because what I really want, and need, is simple: I just want a break.
If you read the section above, it should be pretty clear that I won't be able to last long without earning a steady paycheck… work is too much a part of who I am. But before I step back into the role as someone's employee in a month or two (and hopefully a two month gap between jobs won't prevent me from getting hired, but I guess we'll find out)… I'm just going to take a break.
And think about what I want to do next, before having to jump into something blindly.
And travel for longer than 10 days while I have the chance, because I may not have a chance like this again for a long time.
And write a lot more often than I generally get to: about my plans for this time off work, what led to this decision, my travels, and what may be up next for me.
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments… and thank you for reading.