burning bright & burning out


TIME TO BREATHE


I suppose you could say this is another one of those cliche blog posts about needing to take some time to rest and recollect myself, but here I am, writing it anyway, perhaps just because I need to remind myself that it's okay to slow down for a bit every once in a while. It's one of the things I simultaneously love and hate about myself. I'm the kind of person who believes I should be able to go blazing full throttle through life, doing absolutely everything at the same time without needing to take a break, and DEFINITELY without having a breakdown at some point in between. But that's not very realistic, is it? It probably has something to do with my Enneagram 3 wing that I find myself frequently leaning into, mostly when it comes to life things more than anything else.

Because why shouldn't I be able to work full time, do grad school full time, exercise every so often, actually see my friends and family, and have time to myself to process the high speed life I'm living without something breaking down? That's a small fraction of my internal dialogue on any given day, and I'm not necessarily saying it's a good thing.

Over the 2017-2018 academic year though, I pushed myself to do everything I just described above, thinking that was a healthy way to live my life (and for some people, it very well could be, but for me...a different story). I didn't necessarily burn out over the last year, but I think I did realize coming into the season of summer that it wasn't very sustainable. By the time spring semester ended and all the final papers had been turned in for year one of grad school, I found myself craving silence and solitude in an almost unhealthy way. I hadn't seen several of my friends for weeks or months at a time, but still all I wanted to do was be by myself, not go out, not do anything, because I had been doing for the last 9 months straight. I just wanted everything to stop.


WHY SHOULDN'T I BE ABLE TO DO EVERYTHING AND NOT BURN OUT, I WOULD ASK MYSELF


As summer began and I realized that I truly did not have the strength or stamina to take a summer class as I had been planning to, I probably should've also noted that I was getting to that stretched-thin point, but I decided to power through that as well. I told myself that I would take the summer off (but not really, since I would now only be working full time) and recuperate in preparation for the fall and year two of grad school where I could pick up everything again at full force.

For whatever reason, I had convinced myself that because I had survived the first year of pushing myself to my limits that I could continue to do that for the next four years of school.

Well, fast forward to the end of July and all those plans were about to change. A mix of personal and family crises finally put me over the edge a few weeks ago, and I realized that I wasn't going to be able to continue living this life of zipping from one thing to another without paying the price eventually. And that's kind of how it goes for me, I tend to keep trying to do as much as possible until I hit a breaking point and decide to cancel everything all at once. I told myself that I probably should've learned better by now, and so I started the process of actually making taking preventative measures to make sure I didn't have a major breakdown once the stress of life, work, family, and midterms all hit at once in a couple months.


I SOMEHOW CONVINCED MYSELF THAT BECAUSE I SURVIVED THE FIRST YEAR OF PUSHING MYSELF TO MY LIMITS THAT I COULD CONTINUE TO DO THAT FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS OF SCHOOL


And so I decided to drop my credit load from taking 9.5 credits this fall semester to only taking 3.5 credits. And on top of that, I decided that in order to best confront all the different things that life has thrown at me and my family in this season that I'd drop down to only working halftime as well.

Now, I get that these might not seem like very drastic decisions, considering the fact that I'm still working and still taking a couple classes, but even the contemplation leading up to making the decisions to reduce my workload both at my job and school felt like a steady stream of failures the entire time, because something deep inside keeps me feeling like no matter what's going on, I should still be able to do it all, even though I know that's a false presupposition and an unhealthy goal.

Part of me feels lazy for cutting down on school and work. Another part of me will probably try to fill all the "free time" I'll inevitably have with all kinds of other commitments or side projects in order to feel productive. And another part of me yet will probably feel like I need to "maximize" this little breather I'm taking from life. And I think all of those parts are so immersed in this combination of American culture telling me that I need to do everything in the fastest, most efficient manner, and my own internal personal darkness that says I must achieve and succeed in order to be valuable and worthwhile, both hard constructs to tear down and replace with healthier ones.


SOMETHING DEEP INSIDE KEEPS ME FEELING LIKE NO MATTER WHAT'S GOING ON, I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT ALL


As those internal voices rage against each other, I find myself continually craving silence and solitude, but in a different way than before, because rather than pushing myself to the extremes, I'm pushing myself towards something even more uncomfortable. In this season of chaos and change and transition, I'm pushing myself more towards the middle ground where tension lives, where the drive to achieve meets the desire for peace, where the part of me that seeks efficiency meets the part of me that chases stillness.

And perhaps more than anything, this is just the next lesson in the broader scope of me learning something that's just so hard for me to do, to just be, to just exist, to realize that the burdens and expectations that I put on myself are so much greater than the ones anyone else has ever placed on me. And I think that's true of many of us. We tend to hold ourselves to higher standards than anyone else would ever subject us to.

So, over the course of the remainder of this year, I'm striving towards learning to reclaim and revise what my word of the year, PURSUE, means in these contexts. I'm striving to pursue peace with myself in these seasons where I realize that I, in fact, cannot do it all. I'm pursuing a healthy relationship with myself and time and my goals. And I'm pursuing an acceptance that everything truly does come in its own time, whether that time is when we think it's going to be or not.

Maybe I'll still finish grad school when I anticipate to. Maybe I'll still have my student loans paid off when I hope to. But also, maybe I won't. Maybe the timing of so many things in my life that I want to be in my control will fall outside of it, and I'm pursuing a way to be at peace with that, while recognizing that it's not bad to have goals and milestones I want to reach, simply that it's also not bad if they end up shifting a little.

I'm reminding myself that things happen for a reason and that it's okay if they happen differently than we thought they would, especially when it comes to the ways we've mapped out our lives for ourselves. I'm reminding myself that things are going to be okay, even if we take a couple detours here or there, because at the end of the day and at the end of my life, I don't want to be a supernova of a person, someone who burns so brightly just to burn out. 


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