I’m in a reflective mood today because it’s my Daughter’s 3rd birthday. I still vividly remember 09/10/2016. I also vividly remember what a dark place I was in at the time.
I suffered burnout, big time. I actually wrote about it and ironically, in that article, I felt really positive about a new job that I started, which I thought would be the start of the end of my burnout. I couldn’t have been more wrong though. That job was about as much of a fix as pouring petrol onto a blazing fire in an attempt to put it out. That job was, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst job I ever had in this industry and not only did it not fix my burnout, it made it much, much worse.
I’m not going to waste any more mental energy on that job and I’m certainly not going to waste anything on the complete oxygen thief of a “head of digital” that was 99.99% responsible for that job’s shittyness. Instead, I’ll spend some time just telling you about where I was at the time.
Fellow parents out there know how hard the first few weeks can be when your child is born. It was quite possibly the hardest period of our lives (until the second was born lol). This period, matched with burnout had me at my wits end and I came within inches of bailing out of this industry completely. I couldn’t motivate myself to even get out of bed in the morning. My only motivation was that if I didn’t get out of bed, there would be little-to-no money coming in, so I just had to get up and get on with it.
I managed to drag myself through that period, somehow—mainly down to the incredible support I got from my partner and a deal that we had with each other. The deal was simple: we get through 12 months of her being on maternity leave and I can then focus on getting the fuck out of that awful job. Double luck suddenly arrived when No Divide (RIP) were hiring for a new front-end developer. Even though I only got to work with Dan and Ryan for little under a year, it was that job that was the catalyst to my recovery and I am, and will forever be grateful for that sudden, positive change in my life, working with such good people. It really, genuinely was the start of incredible things for me.
Often, relaxation is recommended as a fix for burnout and for me, this certainly helped, but it certainly wasn’t a silver bullet. What I needed to start really recovering was a job that brought me genuine joy. You see, I care so much about the impact of the work that I do. I’m not really bothered about the “how”, but I’m really bothered about the “why” and the “what”, which having a genuinely meaningful job finally would give me. We spend most of our adult lives working, thanks to Capitalism, so to spend that time doing something that had no meaning felt like such a waste of time for me.
Having a meaningful job also isn’t a cure for burnout, because I honestly don’t think you can actually be cured from it. I fight it nearly every day in some form. Most days it’s easy, but every now and then, I feel the ever-recognisable symptoms and feelings of extreme apathy. Now that I know the signs, I do certain stuff to fix things. This is partly why I do so many damn side projects, because they allow me a quick win and also a chance to make something meaningful. Know that when I suddenly churn out a little side project, it most likely means that I’m fighting a little burnout battle, which by the fact I’ve launched a side project, means that I’ve won.
I’ll wrap up with this: 2019 has been another turning point for me, but this time, very much for the better. Going back to freelancing has by far been the best career decision I’ve ever made. That and some very big wins throughout the year have keep any burnout feelings very far away, most of the time. I’m also, for a change, incredibly excited about the future. Moving into more education-based work with my “CSS From Scratch” and “Let’s Build a Landing Page” courses feels so incredibly right and you want the know why that is? It’s because those projects, just like Every Layout, will empower people to make stuff. That’s a big win in my books.
Life really couldn’t be more of a contrast to 3 years ago. Let’s hope that this positive momentum continues.