Once upon a time, I worked at a boat shop.
It was a pretty basic office job, and I was paid $11/hr to do things like list boats online, take photos of boats, and edit videos of, you guessed it, boats.
I have zero interest in boats.
It wasn't tied to my career or my future, or anything in particular really. I was literally in it just for the money and for something to do over the summer and during the semester.
But, looking back, I think it's the only time in my life I was truly able to 'turn off' work from, well, the rest. I could go home and not think about boats in any capacity, or worry about my potential future(s) in the boating retail industry. It didn't really matter beyond what it was.
Being a student in a world where your education is built purely on maximising your career prospects is kind of toxic. You go to school, do work, and then quite literally do more work at home. School is your entire life. It's all-consuming.
At the beginning of the year, How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation went viral, and it immediately struck a profound chord in me. As I read the book it references, Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, that chord turned into an entire orchestra.
You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.
Reflecting, a lot of my major life decisions have been based on an impending doom about and around financial security. I've literally always wanted to work in games, but of course then you find out the games industry is really fucking unstable, and people tend to only stick around for 3-5 years max before abandoning it for more stable industries.
"Fine, I'll get a computer science degree instead of a game design degree, maybe work at a tech company for a decade, be super frugal, and buy the rest of my time back to financially retire at 30 and spend the rest of my time making games."
At least, that was a plan.
But now I'm in grad school? Figuring out how to make games my academic career??
They're definitely paying me for at least half a decade???
I don't have to do this on the side???
This could turn into a tenure thing in like 10-15 years and then I'd ACTUALLY have lifetime stability for this???
Which, objectively, is much better than I could've ever hoped.
But now I'm in too deep.
I can't just get home from campus and not think about school.
I can't just get home from campus and not think about technology.
I can't just get home from campus and not think about games.
I can't stop.
It's been my entire life.
And it's killing me.
pâro n. the feeling that no matter what you do is always somehow wrong—as if there’s some obvious way forward that everybody else can see but you, each of them leaning back in their chair and calling out helpfully, “colder, colder, colder…”
Part of me is straight mad that I feel like this, that things are like this. Not just with my experiences per say, but I guess in a sense the world. No one should be economically unstable given how much value we create and have, not to mention our dying climate and dozens of other things.
It's amazing and you should watch it literally right now. Maybe watch it alone so you too can scream into the darkness. Or host a watch party. You do you.
So, yeah. The last couple months have been me coming to that realization and taking steps to deal with it.
Journaling has become a whole thing for me, specifically bullet journaling. I dabbled with it some before, but really got into it over the summer and read the book The Bullet Journal Method.
also fun fact I love stickers.
this letter is only about stickers now.
there is only sticker.
Turns out I write a lot. The teal one alone only lasted for like a month and a half, tops.
Anyway, now there are two of them, one for career / academics / game making / entrepreneur-y things and the other for, you know, living. As an exercise, I went and outlined different roles I might have in either capacity.
It's my what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up, but today.
I'm hoping physically separating these thoughts-on-paper will help. I feel good about it so far.
I've also started to look into therapy. It's a process and I'm still figuring out who to work with on all of the baggage in my life ever, but, so far wheels are in motion.
I'm also planning on taking a real, honest to god break during winter session this semester. UD is somewhat unique in that winter break, if you're not taking classes, is about 2 months long, and I plan on avoiding anything remotely resembling work like the plague. I haven't really taken a whole semester off since I got to college. There's always been some internship, some gig, some project, some thing relevant to my career prospects that I felt I needed to do.
If you have any recommendations as to what to do in Amsterdam, let me know.
Something else that gives me a lot of hope about all this is Andrew Yang's campaign, and more generally the possibility of a Universal Basic Income becoming a reality. I've had concerns about automation since I first saw Humans Need Not Apply in 2014, but now is the first time it seems like there's real momentum to actually do something about it.
I got a copy of his book, The War On Normal People, from a friend (Hi M! <3 <3) and really recommend it, it goes into some of the other bigger problems and why UBI, while not being a silver bullet, could do a lot of good.
_... Individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change. Which helps explain why so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions: We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it’s not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix.
Until or in lieu of a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system, how can we hope to lessen or prevent — instead of just temporarily stanch — burnout? Change might come from legislation, or collective action, or continued feminist advocacy..._
I believe Universal Basic Income is that change, and whether it comes in the form of Andrew Yang's freedom dividend or not, I'm hopeful about the possibilities.
ps there is no battlestar galactica it's just a bad office reference because i thought the title was funny pps play this game about a goose it is quite good my friend nico made it