Edit desk: Dealing with self-induced burnout

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This summer, I was determined to have it all – or everything within bounds at the least. 

I was excited to be home in New York City as places started to open back up. I was excited to experience the city’s nightlife again. I was excited to spend time with my family and home friends. I was excited to be back in my home gym. I was excited to work.

Before I left Bethlehem in the spring, I planned to have a busy, eventful summer. I submitted dozens of job and internship applications and started making plans to see everyone I missed.

After a couple weeks of applying to every job I found on Indeed and interviewing for them, I had two part-time jobs on top of a freelance journalism internship.

Many people, including my dad, warned me about burning out quickly. 

Three jobs spelled out “tired.”

To me, I saw “the grind.” 

I looked forward to getting swept back into the forever-moving hustle of New York City culture, and I went in headfirst with a smile.

I proceeded to work every day of the week, either opening for Blink Fitness at 5:00 a.m. or working brunch at Grey Dog. After my shifts, I took interviews and wrote profile stories for my internship. 

I devoted my “off” hours to get a lift  at the gym. My actual leisure hours were spent going out or exploring new restaurants and sights in the city with my friends.

By the middle of July, a month into my jam-packed summer, things were catching up to me. I was feeling a bit sleep-deprived, my feet hurt from being on them all day, my brain felt overworked and my social battery was starting to dwindle.

But this was what I wanted and signed up for, right? 

Instead of seeing the situation for what it was — burn out — my internal monologue berated myself for being lazy. I had obligations to fulfill, goals to meet and a year of “lost time” to make up for.

The rest of my summer looked the same — day after day of working, exercising and late nights out — until I left for school. I can count the number of off-days I had this summer on my two hands.

This is not a humble brag to show how much work I did. I’m also not saying I had a horrible summer. I gained so much work experience, made beautiful connections with some of the most special people, discovered new favorite spots and made memories to think back on for years to come. Overall, I feel grateful and privileged to even have been able to do all of this.

What I am saying, however, is that this mentality of needing to make up for “lost time” and making sure you’re “doing enough” is toxic, and it keeps you from living. One job would’ve been “doing enough,” let alone two.

I wish I had slowed down and took a breath. I wish I had made time for actual leisure – to people watch in Washington Square Park, read a book in La Colombe, paint in the park, to sit still for a moment.

I’ve found that the culture of my generation, and the culture of New York City alone, is to never stop moving. I was being hard on myself for taking naps or watching TikTok after a long day instead of doing something with every waking moment.

All of this didn’t really hit me until a couple of weeks into school. We are finally returning to some semblance of normalcy with in-person classes and more social events. It’s wonderful to be living the college experience again, but I’m finding myself feeling tired a lot of the time. 

All of this can be attributed to my summer break when I didn’t allow myself to have a break.

The toxicity of it all really hit me when my academic plans changed a bit and I dropped one of my classes. I went from 19 credits to 15 and panicked. 

A blaring “you’re not doing enough” sign went off in my head. I scrambled to fill that gap by reaching out to my boss at my internship asking to continue to complete assignments throughout the semester and applying for a work study position.

While I think the workload I have now is sustainable and healthy, my reasons for bulking it up came from an unhealthy place — I wanted to prove to myself and others that I was doing “enough.”

I feel as if I am constantly battling myself for feeling burned out, but also needing to “keep up.” It’s manifested itself as an exhausting vicious cycle.

I’m in the process of trying to quiet this voice and to fulfill my responsibilities and push myself in college while also leaving time to relax. It wasn’t work we were missing out on during the throes of the pandemic— it was enjoying life.

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