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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Buyer

#69: It's Burnout, Baby

My brain takes at least few hours to be fully functional at work these days. No matter what time I sit down at my desk in the morning, it takes ~1.5 hours before there’s any chance of my brain making it “into the zone.” I blamed myself for being lazy at first, but I’m not lazy. I’m motivated to get my work done, but my brain doesn’t want me to work. This must be the brain fog I’ve been trying so hard to prevent.

I’ve been in my current role for 4 months. On previous teams, I was a fully functional analyst by this point, (adding as much value to the team as I could for a fresh graduate). Even though I’ve learned more in the last few months than in my previous 2 roles combined, I still feel like butterfingers. Each time I start understand the context behind my responsibilities, we lose another team member, and I’m suddenly learning to take on additional scope, which includes learning an entirely new subject area. Each task I’m assigned completely new, which means it requires several iterations and training sessions for me to get it right. The pressure is on, and I want to deliver, but my brain is fighting back. I’m grateful that my manager is extremely patient, and understands my limited experience while still treating me like an adult. I’m struggling to judge my performance. I know that the work I’m doing was meant for someone with far more experience than me, but I also knowing that I’m perfectly capable of this work. When I’m sitting on my couch each night and look over at my entirely pink desk setup, my first thought is “that is sexy.” I LOVE my desk space, and sitting next to it while I eat dinner actually makes me excited for work the next day. As I go to bed each night, I feel like tomorrow might be the day that my brain lets me accomplish what I know I can. As I always say, I’m exactly in the role I want to be in. For the time being though, no matter how much effort I put in, my brain prevents me from doing what I want to do because it’s tired. Speaking of effort, brief update on my dating life. I had typed up a very comprehensive update of dating recently, until I realized that it’s not worth the effort of re-hashing. Long story short, I went on a few dates. This time, each person I went out with was great, but not necessarily great for me. I was particularly excited about one person until his vibe suddenly changed on me. I have absolutely no idea where we stand now, which of course lead me to spiral for a few days. I started to question what was wrong with me that a situation would repeat itself for a second time in a row. If I’m repeatedly making the same mistake, I want to know so that I can improve.

Ironically, my guess is that this is part of the problem itself. I’m a direct person. I appreciate feedback and constructive criticism. I want to be the best person that I can be, so if there’s an issue, I want to know so that I can fix it. As long as feedback comes with good intention, I’m not going to be offended. However, I'm learning the hard way that not everyone is as direct as this, and that these conversations must absolutely be handled in person. If I try to bring up and diffuse conflict over text, I’m more likely to stir up conflict rather than resolve it. The other person won’t understand my intention from a text, especially if they don't know me well, nor can I see their reaction to understand if we’re on the same page. A phone/video call isn’t good enough either. Even though this "live" conversation allows for immediate responses and tonality, I can’t see someone else’s reaction after they hang up the phone. In order to communicate properly, I need to be face to face so that someone can understand where I’m coming from, and so that I can truly understand their prolonged reaction.

Usually, if something isn’t going well for me, I can put in effort until I achieve the desired outcome. That’s not the case right now with work or dating. When it comes to dating, I actually need to put in less effort. I need to re-direct some focus into relaxing, which is arguably more difficult for me. Before you accuse me of being for "desperate," for even a second, let me clear - I will not accept anything less than the best for myself. I will not force a connection with anyone. When I do find a connection worth exploring, I give it the same level of time and attention that I give anything else in my life, because that's who I am. Nonetheless, that type of investment is reserved for someone who wants it, and I haven't found that yet. I refuse to be cynical about it. I don't necessarily believe in soulmates, but I am a hopeless romantic and I love that about myself.

At the risk of sounding like a brat, I often have a certain kind of dread when it comes to getting ready for extended travel. It happened back in November, and again this time. It’s not because I don’t want to travel. Rather, I love my life and routines in Seattle so much that it’s difficult for me to leave them. I become paralyzed at the prospect of change in routine. The silver lining of each less than successful dating attempt is that it makes me excited to get a break from Seattle and my routines to reset.

Similarly, Instead of trying to grind harder at work, I need to grind smarter, which means taking a break. Thankfully, I’m about to have 3 weeks completely off. Can I work hard at relaxing? Again, probably the wrong idea…

Have I reminded the world how much I love the gym lately? I’m legitimately in love with the gym. I forget that most people work out for health benefits, and probably assume others do too. It’s reasonable for someone whose never had a conversation with me to assume that I workout for shallow reasons, even though that couldn't be further from the truth.

I view working out as both a form of art and continuous self-improvement. The physique I’m building is art that's always on display. I’m far past the point of working out to look sexy. I work out to look strong – and the goal is to be proportionately strong. If that doesn't make sense to you, that's fine, but please respect it. Obviously, I spend more time with myself than anyone. I love validation as much has the next person, but I do this for me. (As I write this, I’m starting to crave a workout.) Each lift is a chance for me to push myself to become a better version of myself. It’s mental toughness. It’s showing up every day, and leaving it all in the weight room. It’s exhilarating each time I hit a PR or find a new way to see the progress I made. (Yes, flexing is a skill that requires practice, and I don't do it for shallow reasons.)

Bodybuilding competitions aren't practical for me, it’s becoming increasingly tempting to try it for real. If I decide to compete, I’d give it my all, and that could have potential negative consequences on my health and personal relationships. As work and dating become an ever-increasing list of unknowns, the importance of the gym as my safe place increases ten-fold. I don’t expect anyone (including someone I would date) to share that passion, but I want people to know that it's not out of vanity. The true hobby behind it all is self-improvement. And, for the love of all things, please stop telling me not to hurt myself. There's always a chance of injury, but I know what I'm doing and I accept the risk.

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