I recently read an incredible article from Buzzfeed News titled “How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation” by Anne Helen Petersen. It was an extremely insightful article and really connected to me on a personal level. It was cathartic going through the piece and seeing feelings and struggles I regularly experience described and analyzed. The roots of issues sussed out and expanded upon. Honestly, it’s worth a read whether you are a millennial or not and whether you feel exhaustion or not.
I definitely understand the concept of “errand paralysis” and it’s connection to exhaustion. I have such little time day to day that I’ve had to throw a lot of the things to the wayside, those things often being matters of cleaning, organizing and general home upkeep. My time is a premium and I need to be dedicating as much of it as I can to the things important to me. I find myself, much like the examples in Petersen’s article, constantly so busy with other things that errands and chores become too mundane to factor in. The freaky thing is that I never even realized I was doing it. I was shoving things off to the next day or the next week without really comprehending why.
The article was a revelation that I need to be better about approaching things as they arrive. Run the trash out the next time I leave the house from it being full. Wipe things down as they get dirty. Treat toilets and tubs and sinks as they need it. It all sends back to things I used to tell people all the time when I was property managing: When it first comes up it is five minutes of work, but when it sits it becomes 5 hours of work. It’s important to just get errands and chores out of the way, otherwise they build up and then you feel compelled to get all of them done in one sitting because they are literally affecting your ability to live happily in your home or workplace or car or wherever the work needs to be done.
It’s going to definitely take work. Even at the time of writing this, my kitchen trash is packed to the brim, two cardboard boxes from recent purchases are spread on my floor (mainly for the cats’ enjoyment) and a handful of empty cans of sparkling water adorn my living room. Granted, I plan to take the trash in about 22 minutes, but it just goes to show that old habits die hard, especially in the face of the exhaustion Tee and I feel on a day to day basis. Burnout is real and it is definitely a hard hurdle to cross.
And that’s one thing I want to add to the article. Petersen takes lengths to explain the urge to burnout in the scope of optimization and becoming more valuable capital, and I definitely agree that our generation and to a further degree future generations are being molded into a perfect capitalist arsenal pretty much from the point we enter school. Work ethic and usable experience are prided over passions and creative interests in many households. Not mine, however. My parents were very supportive and trusting in the paths I chose as I grew into the man I am today. Even at 30, I still have plenty of growing, but they support me all the same. In some ways that should make me less primed for burnout, but I still feel it. My time is still a premium, and one that I am just not able to share with every whim I may have.
“Why, Chris? Why are you so busy?” People ask (typically after I turn down plans or explain that I rarely sleep).
Well, much of it is self-imposed. I only have one regular job, but then I have various other personal goals I’m working to. I’m keeping this blog going with weekly posts. I’m working on a book and shopping out stories and articles to various publishers. I’m now doing a weekly podcast on comics and movies. I have video projects I want to get off the ground. I am the key plan-maker in a small friend-family, and I make sure I see them pretty much every week, barring anyone travelling, being sick or having weekend consuming plans. Then I have leisure things I enjoy: Playing video games, painting miniatures, running RPG campaigns, board gaming, etc. Among all of that I want to be able to keep my house as clean as possible, I want to be able to exercise when I can, and I generally just want to have some time to become a vegetable and not move.
“Well, it seems a lot of your busy-ness is self-imposed. If you’re exhausted, can’t you just stop?”
I’ve heard this from a few people. That I choose to be busy, so wouldn’t it behoove me to just choose to be less busy?
That’s where the confusion lies: I WANT to be busy.
The things I’m working on are important to me and are what my happiness hinges on. I’m exhausted, sure, and it sometimes makes stuff fall to the wayside. It sometimes makes me unavailable for certain things. It requires a decently strict schedule to keep up. Sometimes it reduces the amount of sleep I get in a week. Regardless, it remains that I WANT to be busy. I WANT to spend my morning writing and emailing stories out and prepping podcast topics and then go to work for 9+ hours only to come home and again write or prep or edit. I WANT to spend the good portion of weekends doing pick up work on projects that I missed during the week. I WANT to have my current leisurely focuses be reading comics and catching up on Superhero TV shows, both of which are productively helping my abilities as a comics podcaster. I don’t load all my video game time onto Fridays and Saturdays because some higher-up is forcing me to. I do it because I WANT my weekday time to be dedicated to the productivity of my creative interests. I’m not busy because I need extra money or have a job tossing 60+ hour weeks at me or because I’m balancing work and education or because I have kids to raise after coming home from my demanding career. I’m busy because the alternative doesn’t appeal to me. Coming home and not working on something I’m passionate about or striving towards a goal sounds like exactly what I would do if I wanted to be unhappy.
So yeah, I’m choosing to be exhausted.
Because I’m choosing to be happy as well.
Now that I’ve typed this, I’m going to go take the trash out.