I can vividly remember the ending of a school year in elementary and the pure excitement surrounding the start of summer. Kids would swarm your desk with a freshly minted copy of this year’s yearbook, jolting a pen in your face, asking you to sign. I always hated when kids wrote “H.A.G.S.” It’s the equivalent of “HBD”. Like keep your sorry ass acronym. If you didn’t care enough to write it out, why bother?
Fast forward some 15 years and here I am presented with a “break” and my anxiety is through the roof. I can honestly say, large increments of free time make me uncomfortable. I’ve been on “go” for so long now, I don’t recognize the woman on “stop.” It’s become easier to be so constantly goal-oriented, without a goal…. I feel purposeless.
As I’m sure any of my previous roommates can attest, I don’t ever really leave my room. I value alone time and will intentionally disconnect when given the opportunity. But giving myself a “night off” amidst the madness of school and work is easy. But a week? It’s been hell.
Why is it a day of binge watching shows makes me feel so empty? So useless? Have I become addicted to my circumstance? And the better question is, is this okay?
I read some article a couple months ago about millennial burnout. The article explained that we’ve internalized the idea that we should be working all of the time. We should be consistently maximizing our time! Optimizing our potential! Whether that be through meditating, working out, eating healthy, reading….”growing”. But as the article so candidly confessed, burnout makes it impossible to reap the benefits of that “growth” because “we cannot free ourselves of the nervous compulsion to go on.” It’s as if every milestone reached and every goal completed doesn’t mean much. Here I am about to embark on my last and final year of school forever and I managed to convince myself that one day of celebration suffices. There’s work to be done, right?
“The exhaustion experienced in burnout combines an intense yearning for this state of completion with the tormenting sense that it cannot be attained, that there is always some demand or anxiety or distraction which can’t be silenced.”
I now know that this week long break has been a blessing. It’s helped me realize that no matter how “on go” you are; your feelings will always catch up to you even if you’ve tucked them away to work on other things. All the emotions you’ve put off to focus on your goals will find you. And when they do, you won’t be ready for it because you never made the time. But that’s the thing about God, he runs on His own clock.
I’ve found a new meaning for self-care this week, it’s not about facials, mani-pedis, or trivial acts of self-optimization. It’s about sitting in your shit and facing it. Facing all that you’ve put off and feeling it out. At the end of the day, if your energy is in jeopardy, will you get anything done?