Dealing With Burnout and Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
   It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
   It gives a lovely light!
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a badass and wonderful poet who lived in the early part of the 20th century. She was big in the Jazz Age and would perform her poetry to sold out houses during the height of the Depression. She was the third woman to win the Pulitzer prize, founded a theater company of her own and regularly turned down dude’s proposals so that she could write and drink and make out with whomever she pleased. #hero
She also knew what it was like to be broke. She grew up poor, her mother working as a traveling nurse. She and her sisters often couldn’t pay their rent, moved frequently and ate infrequently. Her financial success with writing came in her early thirties. She hustled, she loved and she became a legend.
Now I have no real intentions of living my life the way Edna did (no disrespect meant) but I do understand her poem above in a very real way. While Enda was referring more to staying up late to make-out and argue about poetry and I’m staying up late catering and doing data entry, I still feel we are sisters-in-arms! My friends, I am beginning to burnout. My candle will not last the night.
My own candle
My seven day work week is getting to me. My 8-11 hour catering events are getting to me. Coaching is getting to me. Recently my nonprofit boss told me he wanted ‘more of my brain and time’ and my heart sank. While I would love to work full time for the nonprofit, I can’t. They don’t have the money for me and that’s my bottom line. Unfortunately and fortunately, this schedule I’ve got is affording me a wonderful chance to crush my debt. I’ve been able to pay off more than I ever dreamed I could already this year: $5,732.16 in three months.
That is all thanks to weekends of catering Saturday and Sunday, to afternoons spent coaching, to working 11 hour days during SXSW and to saving every single penny I come across. I live like a broke hermit/workaholic and send all my money towards my loans and I’ve had incredible success. Yet I am coming to a point where the success is feeling second to the exhaustion and discontent with some of my jobs.
I hate having Friday come and knowing that I have to work at least 8 hours on Saturday, every single Saturday. I hate walking out of my house and leaving behind my friends and boyfriend to enjoy their weekends off together and without me. I am always doing on thing and thinking of the next thing I’ll have to do. It’s really hard for me to turn off these days, and it’s wearing me out.
I also am burning out of my work. I never had a deep love for catering and now it’s barely tolerable for me. It’s hard manual work combined with smiling and pleasing the client no matter the request. I dislike that part more. I’d rather haul boxes and organize the van by myself and covered in sweat than smile and say ‘Sure, we can do that!’ when the client asks if we can push dinner by 30 minutes. (It’s so hard to keep the food warm and not overcooked people!)
I like living a frugal lifestyle but I do not like living a workhorse lifestyle. At least not with these kinds of work. If I were able to write all day or work for the nonprofit (which I feel passionate about), that would be a different story. With my current weekday schedule looking something like this:
5 hours on nonprofit work, 2 hours on writing, head to practice for three hours, come home to eat and shower and then back to nonprofit work- it’s not something I’m enjoying anymore. It’s just something I’m doing.
My attention span is fractured. I am constantly doing something but also trying to think about another responsibility I can see on the horizon. I really do try to stay positive and I do have many perks. Right now I’m standing in my backyard on a beautiful 65 degree day, writing this at my breakfast bar. I regularly get to spend time in the sunshine and I can wear yoga pants and t-shirts to all (except one) of my jobs. Working from home saves me lots of cash and I live with three good friends. My boyfriend is in the same city as me and is totally down to eat catering leftovers on date night with me. These are all pretty amazing things and I acknowledge that.
Hanging out with my chickens today
Some people thrive off of a constantly changing schedule. They like that no two days are the same and that they have new challenges and no routine. I’ve realized over the last year that that is not for me. I do like routine. I like working within an established structure. Sure, I’m happy to establish it myself like freelancers and entrepreneurs do, but that’s not exactly what’s happening here. I’m just spreading myself thin so I can be deft-free as soon as possible.
My debt free life is in sight: I have $5,203 left to go on my student loans. While of course that excites me, it doesn’t in the same way it would have five months ago. I’ve become a money making/hoarding zombie. The joy of pushing myself as hard as I can so I can watch the balance drop as fast as possible has depleted. Now I feel overworked and underpaid. The amount my balance drops doesn’t seem equal to the of work I put in to get my money.
I’m not stopping until I reach zero debt. There’s no way I’m going to get this close to the finish line and sit down. I’m just not enjoying this final lap as much as I think I could, and that’s entirely due to burnout.
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6 Replies to “Dealing With Burnout and Edna St. Vincent Millay”

  1. You’re doing so great! I love reading your blog and seeing how successful you’ve been. But you’re not a robot and burnout is real – can you take a weekend off from catering/other work and go hang out by a lake? Delaying your debt payoff by a week or two is worth it to not be miserable for months!

  2. Thanks so much! I also like reading your blog. I did take a weekend off recently and it was wonderful. I’m so close to just finishing this off I’m just putting my head down and trying to be done by July. As much as I hate this schedule, I’d rather not drag it out any longer than I have to.

  3. You are working so hard! It seems like you need permission to give yourself at least one day off each week. Is that possible? In the grand scheme of things, it may not make that much of a difference with debt pay-off, and it could recharge you.

    1. AH, it does make a big difference though. With two of my jobs, if I don’t show up, I don’t get paid. With my other two, the pay is a stipend but both too small to live on alone. This week I’m working all 7 days and game days for coaching are keeping me out until 9:30 twice a week. I’m reminding myself that coaching ends in a month and that will be a huge relief. Once mid-May hits, my schedule will open up considerably but my income will drop. It’s a double edged sword!

  4. I’m so isnpired by this because can totally relate! Taking time for yourself is so important but never getting that time is like torture. Keep envisioning the light at the end of the tunnel (no debt)!! You can do this!!

  5. Thank you! The light grows ever stronger! I do strongly believe in time alone. It restores me so much! I’m planning on going for a solo hike to watch the sunset next week after practice ends, so I’m looking forward to that!

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