I’m burnt out.
I remember finding a career help book a long while back that had a chapter entitled Burn Out? Cop Out! Maybe, but there’s a very real part of me that feels utterly defeated. Taking stock of my situation isn’t easy. I have specialized knowledge that really can’t be transported to another field, I’ve developed a reputation of having good and bad days with my supervisors, and I’m faced with a job market that’s as bad or worse than the recession of the early 90’s. My special friend has said that this is not a job for young people, and I’m beginning to see why. Sooner or later, everyone internalizes the “I’ve just come here to die” attitude that seems to be an institutional affliction. Stay here long enough and your spirit will be broken.
I ended up having a long conversation recently about how my tenure here was just another manifestation of a series of expectations that have been laid upon me. Go to school. Get a good job. Get married and have the requisite number of children to populate my suburban home. My mother’s dream. My great rebellion was in my insistence in studying history instead of finance. Undergraduate management programs are vocational training, I insisted stubbornly. She was vexed, but she won in the end. In spite of all of my grand ideas about education, or about the pursuit of the Self, I have shouldered her anxieties and her dreams. I am here because I couldn’t stand the uncertainty it would have taken to pursue one of my wacky dreams. I am here because self-doubt kept me from considering becoming a scholar or studying raku in Japan or pursuing my interest in historical restoration. I am here because I had it beaten in my head that plumbers make more than writers. The irony which no one bothered sharing is that plumbers make more than bureaucrats, too. The grand irony is that while I’ve fallen into the path that my mother chose, the way it has manifested itself is feeble and barely recognizable as what it was that she wanted.
There’s a man who graduated with me who recently fulfilled a dream of scaling the world’s seven tallest mountains. On his final trip, he got married on the mountain to a woman whom he had met on a previous expedition. It was a pretty remarkable achievement that was noteworthy enough to warrant an article in our alumni magazine. As I read the article, I kept glancing at his picture at the top of the page, trying to remember why this man looked so familiar to me. He wasn’t someone I knew from my immediate circle of friends, and I couldn’t recall ever having had classes with him. I kept reading and suddenly remembered that I regularly saw him walking on campus with his dog. You see, he’s blind.
I feel very small and weak.