From Borderline Burnout To Something Like Satisfaction

This story begins sometime not now.

I’m not sure when it started or what are its actual ingredients. But the symptoms have persisted through the years. That is, I may be bad at resting. Or maybe: my priorities can be really out of whack. Or maybe: if I can’t summarise it, I can’t tell it fully. But I can tell you the results.

Last two months of 2018 were the hardest ever, workwise (aside from first two months of 2018, but that’s a separate story). I had two shows, two pub quizes per week, an emotionally and physically demanding full-time job with autistic children and my own artistic practice. Rather tellingly, all the work I was doing required being very Out There for other people: whether I’m hosting a pub quiz or working in the school, there is always an audience that I perform for. And I love that; it plays to my strengths. And yet.

Above me in the shows: Behind The Scenes at Studio Mandelbrot (a charming improv sci-fi set in alternative 70s) and Snow Q (a blend of fairy tale, poetry and performance art, in which I was the solo actor). I loved doing both of those!

There are people who routinely work 70-hour weeks. I have the greatest respect for those people and I presume that it takes a unique combination of endurance, determination and balance in creating efficient work routines as well as building in self-care. This is something I understand in abstract, but when it comes to work, I just expect myself to take everything on and excel. To make this more complex, I really do enjoy a demanding, fast-paced environment: I cook lunches and organise myself ruthlessly and – thrive. But in the last months of 2018 things got out of control: my motivation was flickering, I was angry, sad and got sick all the time. I kept trying to rest; I reserved Wednesday evenings for soothing baths; I refused social invitations, because between quizes and rehearsals I was out way too much – but I was also missing my friends and had no time to see them. All of these attempts were too little, too late. I was hoping that I’d rest during Christmas, but despite a wonderful holiday I came back to work with a sense of doom and unhappiness.

And so I had to deal with it.

First week back to school I asked for risk assessment for my injury – something I postponed, because the injury didn’t seem very serious and me being put on risk assessment would put pressure on the rest of my team. I followed this by three days of sickness absence and a decision to go from full-time to four days a week. I quit one of my two pub quizes. I quit the improv team I was heavily involved in. I started quitting things left and right, and saying “no” to more things cropping up. I quit media (as you know if you read my previous posts), I quit reading about politics especially, I quit trying to make all of my art projects at the same time. I quit, I quit, I quit. And then I quit some more.

There is more to it, of course. I have injuries that needs physiotherapy and general dealing with. I’m in my thirties now, which seems like a good time to get some spine muscles and improve my posture: I will likely keep that spine for next 30-50 years, so it’d be nice to maintain a decent user experience. My mental health could also use a tune-up – another thing that I’ve been postponing, but inevitably will need more if I don’t look at it sooner rather than later. All these things require time and effort and I had to make space for them.

And there is British citizenship – something I keep being scared about and need to do research on. Miraculously, my tax return actually affords me the money to pursue it. I hope that’s a sign of some sort.

So what now? Last week was my first week on a 4 day contract. On Friday I slept in, did some admin and went on a date to a museum and to see a show. Saturday was taxes, Sunday – brunch with friends and quiz. I try not to worry about citizenship, if only because it won’t help. I think twice before accepting any invitations, but also have more energy to be social as well as some actual time to enjoy London. Chances are I’ll be earning less: on average this move cost me some serious money that I hope my freelance work will absorb a little. But overall, I am happy: my personal life is thriving, I have plans to finish a play this year and maybe learn how to apply to Arts Council. I found some small satisfaction in things being as they are. I keep reminding myself to enjoy it.

A mostly vegan brunch: large frying pan with chickpeas, a smaller one with tofu, also olives, hummus, tomatoes, guacamole, goat cheese (non-vegan), fruit, tea and several mugs. All set on a table with some feet/legs visible around.
May 2019 include more brunches with nice people!

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