The Burnout

I’d be untruthful if I didn’t admit that I’ve stumbled, I’ve struggled, and I’ve failed to do what I set out to achieve in these last work-filled 3 months.

But I’ll tell you what I know now to be true:

It’s always been easier for me to run away from what haunts me, challenges me, frustrates me… including, now I see, the work I believe I am meant to do.

The burnout that I experienced from my college experience was real — and it was excruciating.  (We don’t talk about that feeling, I think, as much as we should.) Every fiber in my being was soooo done with school when I sauntered off that stage in May, even though I finished top of my class, summa cum laude style, with much to be proud and grateful for. 

I don’t think I even had the words to describe how scraped-to-the-bone I felt until now.
this and/or that

To ease my exhaustion from all that I had accomplished in those 4 whirring years, the summer of a lifetime came right in the nick of time: a southwest vacay with two of my best gal pals, a surprise trip out of the country to southeast Asia again, and a whole 2 months in my favorite part of the country.

Coming back from California a second time had me feeling all sorts of ways, especially after I finally opened up to the feeling of joy in my life. As someone who has previously used school, hard work, and all-consuming subject matters as an outward outlet for my internal anxiety, this no-strings-attached joy was something just so beautiful, I couldn’t resist. 

I loved that feeling of inner freedom so much, I didn’t want to let that feeling go. 

I was happy — unabashedly — for the first time since before my fall from innocence and grace at the frightfully young age of 13.  

And so I started to abandon the causes that, while painfully heartbreaking, had given me so much motivation and fiery passion in my ‘becoming’ years of college. 

I tore down all the posters that urged collective action for sustaining our Earth. I de-cluttered all the science posters and academic theory books from my room. I purged myself of reminders that we as a collective society are failing our Earth, our home.  

Deny. Deny. Deny. 

I over-involved myself in work, in relationships, in shiny new objects… in taking the time to be away from it all for a while. 

I needed a break. Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely let myself have a ‘downbeat’ moment in my crazy rush of living. 

But… I know now that I tried to run away from all that I’ve learned and know. Because it makes me sad. Because I was burned out and scared. 

I drove myself so far away from who I had started to become — all because I was fearful. 

Fearful of commitment. Fearful of the future. Fearful of being ‘that person’ who cared too much, too constantly, for the rest of my life. Joy-deprived. Sleep-deprived. For the sake of some kind of reputation that I still have problems with. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but my knee-jerk reaction of starving myself — previously of creative freedom, nutrition, and the pursuit of happiness — is exactly what I am doing now towards the work that I felt all-too-important less than 6 months ago. 

Deny. Deny. Deny. 

It all came rushing back to me, like the floodwaters over a broken dam, when I found myself trying to muster up the pep to apply for a student affairs job at a university I unapologetically turned down less than 5 years ago. 

It hit me like bricks. Like bullets in a blast. Like a scenic road that suddenly ends. 

What am I doing, I pushed back from the computer. Got up, paced around for a bit in the hallways of the public library. 

Like adrenaline, those four words pumped through my veins. Flashing through my mind. Gripping me with an intensity I haven’t felt since my Athens days. 

What am I doing? 

Who was the girl who was so confident and ‘in the right place’ a year ago? Who was the woman who was starting to put it all together in April? Who is the girl that lost her way, swayed by the salty sea breeze and the affection of another in the here and now? 

I don’t know. I don’t know who will prevail. 

Is it possible the girl inside of me is both of these ‘authentic‘ versions of myself — the joy, and the sobering reality? The one with a depressing narrative of environmental change and the one with the positive yogi vibes and the sweet, joy-filled smiles?

Can she really have the love and happiness of today, and the motivation and passion of yesterday? 

Can she really be, and have, both versions of herself?


2 Replies to “The Burnout”

  1. Bethany,

    You are such an amazing women and you can be all of it ! Believe in yourself that you can and the road will be endless 🙂

    HUGS!! Debi

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