Burning Out Fast... or, Everything I Needed to Know I Learned While Staring Blankly at a Computer Screen

7/22/04 by scott

When I was younger I heard people talk about how stressed out they were and I thought it was just some baby-boomer way of saying 'I'm too much of a pussy to take the pressure that everyone else seems to make it through.'

People that say they're stressed out usually are that way because they're corporate schills that keep getting demands piled on them that they can't meet and manage to keep themselves happy at the same time. It's a tool for the sell-out ex-hippie to say to the world, 'I hate how my life has turned out and none of it's my fault.'

Well, that's kinda what I used to think, anyway. Back when I used to think there was no problem the world could throw at me that an x-acto blade to the forearm couldn't fix. But at least I would never stoop to the lowly pathetic level of saying something completely inane like, 'I'm majorly stressin'. (what a strange word, majorly... hm...)

Anyway, this week, and the week before, and the week before, the world has taught me the meaning of stress. It's not necessarily that I've had it any rougher than anyone else has or that anyone should pity me. It's that I've spent far too long in a situation that I have no idea how to handle, with a whole bunch of people looking to me for answers. And it's all I can do to keep from turning back to them all with my middle finger pathetically extended up to the flourescent lights that don't all work right, and saying, 'you know what, I just don't give two shits about how your fancy fucking Power Point presentation isn't going to get printed on time because the printer is jamming. I've got bigger fucking fish to fry."

Nah, if only it was that simple. Actually, I like a lot of the people that I work with and I genuinely want to help them. The problem is that I don't know how to do it and keep my sanity. And most of the time if you say something like that, people will respond with something like, 'you shouldn't spread yourself too thin for other people. Don't stress over it.'

But the problem is, it's my job. They pay me to help people. And without that precious paycheck, I would be majorly stressin' even more.

So here's the thing: I'm sitting here at 11pm eating re-heated pizza and drinking a beer after just getting off work for the second time today. I had gotten home around 5:30, which is very early compared to what I've been working latley. I was feeling pretty good, too, because we finally made some headway into a huge problem that has been plaguing us at the paper for some time. So I grab a Heineken that my good buddy Phil left over here after visiting this weekend, and I get ready to put a pizza in the oven.

And the phone rings. Kim knows by now that it's work calling, because this is about the fifth time in two weeks that I've been called in almost immediately after getting home. So I tell her to go ahead and put the pizza in and I'll eat my half when I get back. And now it's 11:00 and Kim's sleeping and there's a note on the foil covering the pizza in the fridge that says, "I love you. Try to smile."

So I do, there, for a moment. God bless her. But it's been hard lately. Every time I try to sit down and get something accomplished there's someone else there that needs me to do something else for them. And then at the end of it all there's me, who is probably the most needy and whiny of them all, demanding some time for self-improvement through developing a shitty ol' website into something IMPORTANT. Hmm... maybe my standards are set too high.

But there are websites to maintain. Software to buy. Papers that need to be printed so that old man Jenkins can do his daily fucking crossword puzzle and not feel like his life is fucking empty. There are emails to be sent, ads to be proofed, desks to move from one place to another and back again at the whim of a supervisor, phones to be installed and switched, precious, precious data to be backed up, time clock punches to capture, security cards to issue, lunches to attend, and meetings, meetings, meetings. We're busy, busy bees.

There's no way I could handle having children.

I can't handle just going to work every day without at some point just sitting there with my phone to my ear hitting '2' repeatedly, listening to a recorded female voice taunting, 'end of messages. end of me - end of - end of - end of messa - end - end - end of - end of messages.'

Whatever. It's pointless to bitch about it. You've all got it too. But it just seems like maybe somewhere along the way we got it wrong. You know, maybe capitalism wasn't such a fucking great idea in the first place, and maybe developing a society where only a small percentage of the population gets to relax is a pretty dumb fucking way to run a planet.

And I realize every day as I roll to my fancy job in my Dodge Stratus listening to Fugazi telling me 'You are not what own', that I'm contributing to the problem, and I could probably make things a lot easier by embracing it and just being okay with my incompetence and doing my job poorly. But I'm not going to stop hating it all, no matter how much it stresses me out. Because no matter how well I do my job or how bad I am at it, no matter how much of a fucking hypocrite sell-out I am, the discontent is there, and I'm going to embrace it because it makes me who I am.

I dunno. Then again, I'll probably just masturbate and go to sleep and wake up and do it all over again.