So, I wanted to do this in a live video on Facebook, but I didn’t have the time, which only proves to validate what I’m about to confess.
I’m burned out.
Not on writing, but on life. I work a full time job, going in at 8:00 am and working hard core until 4:00 pm, and some days even later because I hate to leave when I have unfinished tasks sitting on my desk. I get home and I have two lovely dogs to take care of, one of which is a total cuddle bug and wants attention just about 24/7. The other one whines for treats and food, even after I’ve fed her. The house needs a serious deep-clean, and the clutter is starting to creep in over my workspace. I am enrolled part-time in school, taking two online classes currently. Both are science classes and the material is extremely dense with lots of exams and lots of textbook reading. On top of all that, I have a husband who loves to spend time with me and I love to spend time with him, but we often find ourselves on opposite sides of the house in the evenings, engrossed in our own hobbies and tasks that the only time we spend together is during dinner and those few moments before going to bed at night. You’d think that I’d have a lot on my plate already. Add in the fact that I write novels, do my own promoting for said novels, and I’m just starting to get myself involved with going to author events, one might wonder if I even sleep.
Can I tell you a secret? I don’t. I don’t sleep. I may lay down at night, but even though I’m exhausted, both mentally and physically, I don’t doze off right away. I think about royalty stats, new ways to get myself noticed in the world of indie authors, about all the things I have to do the following day at work, and rehearsing facts about anatomy so that I won’t bomb the next test.
To put it all into perspective, I’m going to get real and talk about juggling. I can’t juggle, either realistically or metaphorically. When I just had my writing, I felt like I had one ball. It was rubber, blue, pretty, cool to the touch, and it felt good in my hand. I could toss around that ball all day. Then I got married. This new ball was equally pretty and I loved to hold it tightly. I could toss both of these balls in my hands, and even get a little clever and switch hands every now and then, which is my version of juggling.
Then you add dogs. This ball is a little slimy (dog slobber), and hairy. It doesn’t feel great, but I could hold it with my husband in one hand while still tossing around my writing ball. The school ball was thrown my out of nowhere and now I’ve really got my hands full. The school ball doesn’t feel good at all, covered in spikes and prickly spines that is uncomfortable to hold. Now, I have to learn to juggle and quick, or it’ll start to really hurt. Work is a hot ball, scorching and unpleasant to hold for longer than a second or two. I hustle, I have to get creative with holding these balls while keeping my cool and taking care of myself.
But something happens. I start to slip. The slobber on the dog ball makes my hands slick. The thorns on the school ball make my skin raw and when I try to touch the work ball, it burns more and more because I have to hold it longer to get a hold on everything else. I drop my husband and he rolls to the wayside. The writing falls flat on the floor and bounces out of reach as I try to make sense of the other burdens in my life.
You want to know something? I can’t do it.
It is physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible for me to juggle everything and succeed at everything all at the same time. This is similar to the video that went viral about a philosophy professor’s lesson about putting a bunch of different sized stuff in an empty jar. Long story short, make sure you put the big things (family, health, passions) in first, then you can add the small stuff (job, car, finances). If you try to put the small things in first, giving them priority, then you won’t have room for the things that matter.
I came to the conclusion some time ago that my life cannot continue this way. I need to pick out what I need to do to maintain my sanity and my family life. That means, we’re going back to the bare minimum. I’m throwing away the one ball I know I can go without. School. My career as an author is growing, I’m learning more about the craft every day, and I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else. When we eventually have kids, I’ll have to quit my job to take care of them and I’ll write on the side. That’s it. I love my current job too much to ever try to go anywhere else, and I already have my career mapped out. It’s been mapped out for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to be an author and that’s the dream I’m chasing. For the first time, I feel like that dream is finally within reach.
With school taken out, I can manage work a little better, and the dogs aren’t as pesky as they seemed before. I can always stop for a moment to pet Sharla or toss Tammi a treat between writing paragraphs, but I can’t do that while I’m studying. If I don’t have exam deadlines, I can make the choice to leave my writing room and watch a movie with my husband, because it’s not as imperative that I study the bones of the human body or how tornados form.
Above all, I’ll have more time to write and therefore, I will be happier. I can go to bed and sleep, knowing that I’m doing what I love instead of what I resent.
Next semester, I’ll be seriously knocking down on my course load and if something changes in my attitude by spring semester, I might take an extra class that I know will be lighter material. If not, if I’m enjoying my freedom, I’ll drop out altogether. That may not go over well with some people, but I need to put myself and my family first, and not the expectations of others.
If you are in the same situation as me, I encourage you to take a step back and assess your life. Don’t add more things in, thinking collecting more stuff will fulfill you. Don’t buy off your loved ones by sending them apologetic texts or cards saying “sorry I wasn’t there”. Don’t neglect the things that need your attention just because you have this “one thing” you have to do. Look at what is an absolute necessity. Don’t listen to the other voices in your head saying “If you don’t do this, so-and-so is gonna be mad at you”. If their opinion, in the end, doesn’t matter, don’t listen to them. If what they are pushing on you is bad for your health (physically or emotionally), is making you unhappy, or will not be rewarding to YOU in the end, drop it in the trash like a tattered and smelly pair of shoes and walk away. Devote your time to the things and people that you love.
Life is too short to live stressed and unhappy.
If you can’t juggle, don’t try or stuff will get broken.