Thursday, March 20, 2008

burnout

I hate work-related cliches, particularly the debased jargon of officespeak - all those hideous phrases that leap into fashion and then slink away as the shame of their use hits. The enduring cliches may be the worst, because their persistence suggests a truth, that the world of work, its beige and bureaucratic boundedness, is the world in which most of us will live and die. It is hard to come up with fresh and expressive words for the experience of working in the technocracy, because there's really nothing fresh and expressive about it.

The language of the technocracy is part faux-military jargon, part bland psychological uplift. It is the language of management and the manipulation of human resources (ie. us). It is all euphemism. This is where we spend our days, in environments of debased language.

Terms like 'burnout' and 'hitting the wall' are more exciting cliches than most work language. Use has drained them of impact, but I invite you to look at them again. Burnout makes use of our oldest metaphors for potential and exhaustion. Hitting the wall is about as simple and vivid an expression as I can imagine, a compact tale of speed and sudden, violent repose. Whap.

So anyway. I hit the wall today, or I burned out. One of the two. Maybe both? I wasn't tired, or pissed off, or bored with what I was doing. I was just empty, as if every last bit of firewood and peat and hay and dung had been dragged from the surrounding acres, and I was standing in the middle of an empty dirt field. It was Easter Island inside my head.

I'm trying to write about the particular speech that gave me this trouble. Not only was it nearly impossible to write the speech, it's even tougher to talk about. It was a short and simple piece on the film and television production industry. I worked in the industry for seven years before taking a job in government, and it was on the strength of that experience that I landed my current run of work. When you can't connect a few facts and ideas on a subject in which you're thoroughly versed, it's a bad sign. I certainly don't want to find another job, but I need to change something. I just don't know what.

All I'm saying is, it's a good thing that Jesus gave me a day off.

7 comments:

Schmutzie said...

Yay, Jesus.

Tamara said...

He's a good guy. He dries my dishes, and gives you a day off. What more can you ask for?

unsigned said...

Dance at work. Just bust moves at random. That's how it all starts. It'll put an end to your burnout. Try it and see!

lotus07 said...

I hit the wall about every 4 months in my government job, it is a cyclical thing...then I bounce back. I have little choice. I am trying to ride the government gravy train to retirement. (God give me patience).

On the subject of office cliches, there is a supervisor in my office that lives by them. I mean, literally, that is ALL he knows. He can't manage and he responds with nothing be memorized office quips. Things such as "I'm all that a bag of chips", or "Go Team", or the ever popular "Is there peace ,love and happiness in your world?"

My only real concern is, do I frag him before or after I retire....it is hard choice.

Ozma said...

It was Easter Island inside my head.

That's one for the ages.

I could go crazy with that metaphor a la, the environmental angle. Like: Why'd ya chop down that last tree? What were you thinking when you chopped it down?

Did you know it was the last tree.

I once read a brilliant essay on burnout and it explained that the cause of burnout is actually passion and interest. Like, you gave something of yourself (the trees) and then built these damn heads and the gods didn't do what you thought they'd do. Actually, I think it was just some dumb ass story in the NY Times. I have elevated it to a brilliant essay only because it makes me feel less guilty about my own burnout.

Which does not go away. Fear keeps me going though. To paraphrase your beautiful wife, 'Yay, fear.'

Of course, my burnout actually makes me wish an asteroid would hit the earth, destroying everything. It's kind of extreme. It's more like the moon inside my head. Easter Island still had grass, I think.

Anyway, just trying to cheer you up. I hope your passion returns soon.

Naomi said...

Take some time off and write a book, please!

Ky said...

I agree with Naomi.