I have spent the last several months in a fog. Emotions tend to get the better of me whenever faced with a barrier in my work life. It's gotten increasingly difficult for me to see the forest for the trees, no matter how much I tell myself that my work is for the greater good of my unit, my institution, and archivy. Self-doubt creeps in, as does stress, frustration, depression. Positivity begins to wane, with optimism replaced by apathy and sarcasm. You stop seeing the good in things and other people, and you stop being inspired. You desperately want to get away, pull the plug, clean the slate, or otherwise just put everything to a grinding halt. You stop asking "why can't I do that?" and start asking "why should I care?" instead.
I don't think this is the first time I've faced burnout, and while it certainly won't be the last, the extent to which it's affected me this time around is astounding. I should add that I love my job, and I'm extremely lucky to have a great supervisor. It scared the pants off me that I couldn't get excited about archival/library/digital humanities/whatever things IN THE LEAST and it's still oh my gosh so frightening. This is the type of mindset that people change careers over, and I am nowhere near confident that it's an appropriate response for me to do so. No, I need to be much more rational and find a way to get over, under, around, and through this.
So, I'm trying to get past this and see things in a new light. Sumer is icumen in, lhude sing cuccu. I haven't gotten very far yet, and I only have a handful of ideas, so I'm eager to hear more. Offhand, I have been doing my best to give myself the following advice as words to live by.
- Remember what you love outside of work. I've started cooking in earnest again, after inconsistently eating like a bachelor during the week given that I split my time between New Haven and New York. I've also tried to get more serious about my passion for beer, and spent time trying to actually learn something.
- Know your limits; say no. (This one should be obvious.)
- Force yourself to do something different.
- Stop seeing yourself as a general; see yourself as a sapper instead. Of course, this one is hard if you're not getting clear marching orders.
- Surround yourself with smart people, and only engage in the conversations when you're ready to both speak and listen.
- Realize that your conversations with other people might actually get them excited about things - don't just do it for your own good.
It's a difficult process to get out of this rut, but I'm getting there. I am at my best when I'm excited about things, so it's in my interest to keep myself moving forward. Last, but not least, I have to thank the following folks for helping me remain engaged and at least somewhat positive, regardless of whether they knew they were doing it were not. So... thanks to (in no particular order) Julie Meloni, Matt Kirschenbaum, Amelia Abreu, Corey Harper, Erin O'Meara, Hillel Arnold, Courtney Mumma, Simon Wilson, Bess Sadler, Aaron Rubinstein, Laura Tatum, Mike Rush, Caro Pinto, Daniel Lovins, Ann Green, Michael Forstrom, Kevin Glick, and of course, Chela Weber. I might have been able to do it without you, but it would have been a much longer and more complicated process.