Honeymoon and Burnout
In late January, I started a new role back in Sydney.
Everything about it seemed perfect: I was given my own office; my relocation was seamless; IT systems were up and running well before my start date; induction sessions were comprehensive; and the resources and support for researching and teaching seemed endless. I was in the depths of the honeymoon period.
Nine months on and reality has admittedly tarnished this rose-coloured painting. I still have moments of starry-eyed awe where a professional staff member says, “You know we can help you with that [bureaucratic exercise], right?” or someone points out, “You know you get paid extra for that [seemingly thankless task], right?” But for the most part I move about my day with healthy cynicism and circumspection about my professional possibilities.
This new mindset followed a pretty serious crash from the height of my honeymoon.
Fuelled by the pure excitement of the new job, I threw myself headlong into every aspect of it. I started developing my three new subjects on the evenings and weekends of the last two months of my last job; alongside packing up my Melbourne home and office, putting my apartment on the rental market, and saying my farewells to local friends.
I failed to balance the late evening teaching schedules of my new university with my enchantment with my new office, where I’d come into work every morning at 8am and inevitably became sick with fatigue as 6–9pm classes dragged out into 50hr work weeks.
As soon as the semester ended, my body gave up on me. I came down with the worst flu I have experienced in six years that knocked me out for two weeks. I paid for every late night and early morning in the two weeks I spent in bed, with virtually no energy to talk or eat. It was the kind of sore, aching wake up call I needed to see that the way I was working was unsustainable.
So now in my second semester I am learning to slow down.
I spend more mornings sleeping in and reading in bed. I learnt to use my husband’s film camera and have been taking photographs on my walks in the winter sun. Like a hipster.
I have been playing Stardew Valley and Starbound. It reminds me that there are more meaningful things in life than chasing A* publications and teaching citations. Like unlocking the ability to plant starfruit and finding an eyeball biome on a new planet.
They are all just games after all.