Then I stumbled on an article about burnout among millennials a friend had posted. Even though I am not a millennial, it very much resonates with me. That constant drive to keep moving, to do more and more, is all too familiar. That’s the other thing about trauma: We’re basically told to just move on from it and return to a normal life. As if that were possible. I left my husband (fearing for my life!!!) and then had to raise a child (who wasn’t even 1 years old then) by myself while fighting off constant court challenges from the by then ex. While I had the privilege of having financial resources (which is HUGE!), I also lived with the expectations that I’ll get a “good education” and then a “good job,” expectations I tried to meet for a couple decades. When I quite this track 10 years or so later, shortly before collapsing, I was in school working toward a (second) masters degree with no chance of actually earning a living doing what I love – writing – because I don’t have the connections. Most recently, I quit another job that I had grown to hate and instead of recovering from that, I organized a cross-continental move. Landing in my new home, I was confronted with the death of my aunt (who died the night I had arrived), and just kept going (mourning? No time!). And someone wondered why I wasn’t looking happy?! After that comment, I wrecked my brain why I still wasn’t happy – adding the burden of being happy… Now I’ve started a 3-year training program that so far has been utterly disappointing – and I wonder why I fall apart when the R. Kelly crap is bringing up my own past and I have a hard time dealing with it?!? There’s nothing left in that resiliency jar because on top of all this, I am also trying to do my part to stave off political disaster (guilt-tripping myself for not doing enough to boot).
Ooph. Just writing that was exhausting!
Although, just like Anne Helen Petersen, the author of the article, I feel a sense of relief having written this, having admitted to what I had been pushing aside: I am burned out! (How can I be burned out, I had been telling myself, when I only work 20 hours/week?) Unlike her, I won’t get paid for my insight(s), though, so I have to figure out how to find other ways to live. A search that, ironically, probably has added to my burnout for I have to find something earth-shattering, something that’ll really change the world, or else I’ll remain a failure. Or so I have learned to tell myself.
Again, I wonder how so many of the things Petersen attributes to millennials have plagued me for so long. Maybe it’s because I lived in the center of optimization – the San Francisco Bay Area – or maybe it’s that I am a bit of a canary in the white patriarchal coal mine that is our culture. Culture, I am learning, is independent of country. Germany has a culture (setting aside more typical German things, like Reibekuchen or Spätzle) that is oh too similar to the U.S.: Rape culture; white supremacy; patriarchy; capitalism. There’s no moving away from it. Maybe there is a way to change that, though, something I am even more interested in now.