I was a
single class from finishing school. I’d already completed my degree earlier
that summer but had also undertaken an additional certificate that would be
completed after a final programming class.
it in an earlier semester but after realizing I wouldn’t be able to pass the
class with the way it was currently run, I dropped it. Essentially it demanded
perfection from students who were intermediates just to pass. To be frank, if
you didn’t have prior knowledge and experience with the subjects covered you
result, I’d purchased online courses in order to teach myself the subjects that
were being covered. The plan was to teach myself over the next several months
in the hopes that when I took the class again that fall I’d be able to complete
Acknowledging the burnout
a driven person and find a lot of gratification in working and making progress
on the things I want to accomplish. Working hard isn’t a problem for me. In
fact, putting up a boundary and acknowledging when it’s time to give myself a
break is where I struggle. As we got into the heart of summer I could feel
myself reaching a breaking point.
quite a chaotic spring semester. In fact, looking back I’m not sure how I
managed it all. I was navigating a full course load in school and was working
just shy of full-time. I didn’t really have much time in the day where I wasn’t
doing or working on something. Sometimes my only “break” would be my hour at
the gym, which let’s be honest isn’t really a break. It was just work of a
different kind – physical as opposed to mental.
I found myself perpetually tired and drained. I was run down. Teaching myself the programming class became a chore. I’d set myself the minimum of spending an hour every day on the material, hoping that consistent action would create a habit that over the course of the summer months would culminate in me being (and feeling) prepared for the class.
times I sat down to work I was just counting down until when I’d be done. I
felt like despite my efforts of consistently working daily, new material was
harder to keep in my brain and it took more effort to understand something new
than it had in the past. It took me a little while to realize I’d reached the
point of burnout.
Giving myself permission to rest
usually a time of rest for people my age. They’re free from the constraints of
the classroom and spend their days sleeping in, hanging out with friends, and
working their summer job. I on the other hand could be found working pretty
much every weekday morning and once I started college would take a summer class
say that to complain, those were all things I did by choice (and for a specific
reason). But the point is that I went straight from the busiest spring semester
I’d had to date, to a schedule marginally less busy. My summer was full with
working, school – a summer class and then teaching myself for my final class,
and making time for friends or traveling. I’d had no real break in between. No
wonder I was burnt out.
traveler, I’d bought a flight to Belize and was heading there towards the end
of summer. A few weeks before I was due to leave, I got the news that a
different professor would be teaching my programming class that fall.
better reviews than the previous one, it gave me hope that he’d run the class
differently and in a much more manageable way. The news spurred me to make the
decision of giving myself a full break for the rest of summer of anything
school related. Groundbreaking I know, summer being a break from school? What a
recognized my burnout and the need for time to slow down and rest. Besides,
since this would be my last summer as a student before entering the workforce
full time, I wanted to give myself the opportunity to savor it and feel that
sense of freedom.
Time for recovery
knew it, I was on the edge of the Caribbean Sea surrounded by the most
beautiful water I’d seen in any of my travels to date. Belize has some of the
best reefs right now as their government has thankfully made their preservation
a high priority. I took full advantage, snorkeling, swimming and otherwise
being in the water almost every day I was there.
traveling solo, I met people and made friends quickly. In fact, I was only
really alone twice on my trip and both of those instances were when I was in
transit to different parts of the country. Even then, locals were incredibly
friendly and assisted me the whole way without me asking for help.
decided to leave my laptop at home while heading to the airport and was mostly
unplugged the entire time I was away. I’d “check in” to the online world in the
early evenings to see what was going on and otherwise let my family know I was
alive. But beyond that I wasn’t consuming much digital information. I was
interacting with the friends I’d made, reading, or choosing instead to turn
inwards and allow my thoughts to entertain me.
rides I found myself not having the desire to listen to music, even when they
approached 5 hours long. I didn’t find myself bored and was finding it
incredibly cathartic just letting my thoughts unspool and my brain decompress.
such an incredible amount of content every day in our tech-driven world and my
head was desperate for a chance to just sift through what was already there. To
let my thoughts wander where they wanted without being stifled by another
article, podcast, song, or Instagram post.
By the end
of my trip I felt rebalanced. On my last day there I found myself starting to
reach the point of boredom after a quiet afternoon spent reading and dozing in
a hammock on the beach. My thoughts began to turn back towards the work that
awaited me at home with excitement. I noticed that my mood’s baseline seemed to
have increased and was happier.
came back from Belize I made a conscious effort to have a better relationship
with my work. To create a boundary and ensure I had a better balance between
the time spent working and the time I leave open to other things.
culture is one where “the grind” is glorified and working really hard
can be seen as something valuable that sets you apart (even when it’s reached
As an ambitious individual this feels like an
especially valuable lesson to learn early on – to acknowledge my limits and set
boundaries to prevent myself from surpassing them. After all, I can accomplish
much more if I’m consistently working at full capacity as opposed to full
capacity in short bursts before spiraling to exhaustion.