I'm digging this conversation as it wraps several nuanced spheres into one: The Do What You Love myth
, the power of language and semantics (exploitation vs burnout), our sense of humanity (empathy), and the 3 reasons people love or don't love their jobs (hours, wages, working conditions--thanks, IWW
Me? I adore teaching, mentoring, curriculum building, leading trainings. I used to think this meant I was going to be a college writing instructor for a long, long time. I started teaching college writing at the end of graduate school, the same semester I started on my graduate thesis in earnest and my last few months of being 23 years old. You can say it: I was so very young and so very naive.
My burnout teaching composition wasn't, as many have described, a burnout in empathy. Although, I completely understand that kind. It was a long overdue realization that no matter how hard I worked or how long, I wasn't going to be able to have the work/life balance or wages or benefits I wanted. UNLESS: Unless I stopped working in the field, or went to back to grad school to spend more money, more years, toiling over research and writing books (plural), in hopes of one day landing a tenure track job, where I wouldn't be forced to teach 5 full-capacity writing classes each semester and at least two in the summer and one over winter break in order to make ends meat.
I either had to change how I taught--which wasn't going to happen (I mean, I was always revising and looking for more ways to be efficient, but I wasn't going to stop spending time with each individual assignment and working with each individual student on their own specific writing path). OR, I had find a way out. And let me tell you: switching careers, trying to move out of the education industry was ultimately something that I tried to do for three years, and in the end, still failed at. I got first, second, and even third interviews with several downtown, skyscraper, companies and start ups. But in the end, I was never first choice. Someone always had a more traditional path to the job I was looking for. I got burned out just trying to show people transferable skills-but the hiring scene is a whole other convo. I taught for about 12 years. I was full time (not adjunct) for the last 5. And for the last 2, I had moved into a half admin/half teaching--which helped the burnout, but still demanded way too much of me and gave way too little back in terms of compensation. Plus, there was no where UP to go from there. I had to get out. So in my case, burnout was something I understood ruled my life for many years, but I just kept trying to work within the parameters I was given. I think this a common issue. We keep trying to fix things ourselves, when in actuality, it wasn't ever an 'us' problem. Worker to the system: It's not me, baby, it's you.
Now, I'm back working at a non-profit, for a capital-u University, and loving it. I'm not in the classroom, but I'm in my field, I'm getting to learn, to teach, to mentor, and to lead. The system is still messed up for adjuncts and for non-tenure track FT workers. In fact I've had other FT non-teaching jobs at universities where I burned out in a matter of months due to the aforementioned drag of too much give and not enough get. But, for now, I am lucky that I've found a position that FITS all of my life, where I feel comfortable taking a personal day or mentioning that I'm feeling stressed about a project.
I know there's a take away in here somewhere. I hope you find it. For me, right now, it's simply that it may not be millennials per se, but the way capitalist business has evolved from the 80s-->90s-->00s-->today that is perhaps the real common thread for examination. In my mind, this seems like something Ling Slater might agree with.
Thank you Connecters, for the original blog post and keeping the conversation so real and so relevant.
Sent: 03-26-2021 10:20
From: Lindsay Griswold
Subject: "It's better to burn out, than to fade away." No, Neil, you're wrong.
Shameless plug: I recently wrote this blog post about burnout for the Connect by Rotary blog.
March is #socialworkmonth in the US. In true social work fashion, I think it's critical we talk about and give name to "the hard stuff." Asking for help or acknowledging we're struggling is one of the most difficult tasks we can do as human beings, truly.
If you feel comfortable sharing your own story of burnout, here is some space for you to do so. 🌟