I’m a burner

by Nic Olson

Burnout rate is high, they said during my first week of work. And I laughed. The new director and new boss started the staff meeting with handouts. Staff meetings were still a novelty. They handed out a booklet about boundaries and ‘compassion fatigue’. Internally I called bullshit, and I mostly still do. Boundaries are a way for people to back out of doing their job properly because of personal discomfort, I figured. And I mostly still do. ‘Compassion fatigue’ is a nice way to say burnout. But I mean, there are websites about it. Legitimacy reigns via the internet.

Choose your adventure Route #2 – The Less Depressing Route: If my continual burnout, like blisters upon blisters or scabs upon scabs, doesn’t impress you, or is something you’d rather avoid reading because it may cause second-hand depression, then refer to this site which takes what I so eloquently complain about and turn it into relatively humourous internet one-liners. If you’d prefer to delve deeper into the cave, read on.

A year later there is a complete staff overhaul due to pregnancy (also known as future-mom-burnout) and likely self-diagnosed ‘compassion fatigue’, and I am desperately searching my file-folder shoeboxes for that handout about boundaries. I am a goddamn burnout and it wasn’t mood-altering substances that caused it. My moment of realization was when I was in my beneath-the-stairs office and some oppressively bad country music came charging into my ears. I almost cried real tears in total resignation. I held back and ate a box of Oreos instead.

Once, in a similar mental state of exhaustion as I am in now, I joined friends to partake in the initial social act of becoming a true burnout; the joint-smoking part. It was great until I realized that I forgot the work van at work and almost got hit by a truck while bicycling back to get it pretending I was flying in a hangglider. Solving burnout with burnout doesn’t work.

And thusly I slip into habits that oppose my values. Laziness in diet. Reliance on the relaxation of beer. Mindless screen time. The norm does not seem normal. Mine is far away and theirs is just not right.

Then today, at a staff meeting in a coffee room that has shifted ten feet east, with faces that shifted once clockwise, while I sat off of the round table, shucking peas from their pods, I raised concerns (complained) about the job I love so much. Trying to find ways to make sure the job I love doesn’t become any more unlikeable, because then these blisters upon blisters might just pop. We didn’t come up with a blister solution and I didn’t find that sheet about boundaries. I guess I will continue to have none.