Today I’m linking up with Emily Freeman to share what I learned in May.
Usually, when I write these posts, I have a whole list of things. And I keep the list going on paper in my planner throughout the month. That was not the case with May. I’m sure I learned multiple little things, but I think they all culminated in one big thing that I’ve known for a really long time but didn’t really articulate until this past month. And that is that when the wheels fall off, you have to keep going.
See, I’ve been mentioning burnout here and there for a long time. And while I’m generally the type of person to say no to the cult of busy as well as to anything extra anyone wants to put on my plate, sometimes the busy and the extras are completely unavoidable. Sometimes, they are part and parcel of your job.
And I have to say, I’m probably more the type to lean toward burnout. It’s been how I roll for a really long time. In high school, I got burned out on playing fast pitch softball my freshman year, but for some reason, kept playing 10 months out of the year until the summer after my senior year. In grad school, I worked 20 hours a week as a grad assistant, waited tables 30 hours a week at a bar, and finished my graduate project in under 3 months. Then, with my second master’s, I worked 40 hours a week for the company from hell, and completed my final semester and comp exams.
And for the most part, I’m pretty good about not taking on too much these days. But when the last two to three weeks of the school year get here, it means that I have to finish grading all the papers and record all the grades. But this is generally a point beyond burnout. It’s the point where you know every free moment will go to doing something that is tedious. It’s a point where you think that logically, grading should only take 5 minutes a paper since you spent every class period for the past 5 weeks discussing this paper. It’s a point where you know each paper (all 116 of them) is going to take 45 minutes, because far too many of your students waited until the last minute. It’s a point where you know that as soon as grades are posted, students are going to email you to negotiate a new grade without even reading the comments you made on their papers.
And to be clear, not all students are like that. In fact, this semester I’ve had some of the best students I will ever have. (I imagine. I mean, I don’t really see how they can get much better.) But I think I hit a wall with grading large papers. I’m going to have to figure something new out for next semester, because I can’t handle that big of a chunk ever again.
And so, it would’ve been nice to have a week off and take some time to recalibrate. It would be great to sit at home and read a book while drinking a whole pot of coffee by myself on the couch. It would be great to sleep in and stay up late and not be chained to my computer for a while.But when the wheels fall off, you have to keep going. Click To Tweet
And that’s why I started training for my summer job during finals week. I had to skip some training sessions here and there so I could go give the final exams to my students, but for the most part, I was plopped in front of my computer doing the WebEx training. Then, after the training sessions were done, I would take a quick break and go back to posting final exam grades online.
I’m not saying this to complain or make anyone feel bad for me. Having a job is a privilege, and I’m privileged enough to have two very well paying jobs. But I also think that taking breaks and not being overly busy are privileges as well. And even though I’m guilty of it on occasion, we can’t preach about the need to stop saying how busy we are all the time, because some people don’t have the privilege of taking those breaks or having quiet time.
And though I’ve traded one privilege for another, I know that I burnt out hard and am now only slowly coming back to the place where I feel I can write or spend time with friends or even go to the grocery store. But that’s what i learned in May. The wheels fell off, but I had to keep going.