Have you guys ever had it where you are doing some strenuous exercise, let’s say biking, and you’re like “Wow, I’m feeling pretty tired. I better stop soon.” But then a limo with a bunch of beautiful women drives by and they’re all hanging out the window going “Hey hot stuff, if you can beat us to the next light we’ll give you a beer”. And when you beat them they go “If you can beat us to the mall two miles down the road we’ll each give you a big smooch”. And then when you beat them again they’re like “If you can beat us to Des Moines, Iowa we’ll let you do tequila shots off our nipples…” and so on until you’ve gone about 500 miles further than you planned and then you get home and the part of your brain that lets you temporarily get away with insane mental and physical ordeals says “OK dumbass, I did my job, now you gotta face the music. I’ll be in Bermuda.” and you collapse into bed and can’t move for two weeks?
Well, substitute the flirty girls in the limo and replace that with a ridiculous workload and that’s my life. One irresistible writing gig after another, back-to-back, coming almost faster than I can deal with them, requiring me to work pretty much seven days a week for a year and a half with only a couple fleeting breaks. And now, total system failure. Riotous success (and freakish sex appeal) comes with a price people.
I’ve been in Minneapolis for two weeks now and I’ve been too bonked to do much more than feed myself and carry on somewhat semi-coherent conversations. I have not gone shopping for clothes. I have not sorted out my tax stuff. I haven’t even opened my mail. At the best of times I feel like I’m only half awake. Barely alert enough to drive, unable to calculate tips in restaurants, even when I can remember how much we tip in America (2.87%, right? Or is that the latest dollar-to-euro exchange rate?) and generally so dazed that the effort required to chose between French toast and an omelet for breakfast almost made me throw up.
It should go without saying then that reasonable writing has been completely out of the question. I’m so burned out that I can only write for about 20 minutes an hour at a rate of about two words a minute – i.e. it’s taken me over 10 hours to write what you’ve read so far. I got off to a slow start because to took me 30 minutes to remember the word ‘strenuous’.
It took me every spare second I had for two weeks to write the 500 words necessary to limp to the finish line for that Ibiza/Mallorca magazine article. By the way, if word-count means nothing to you, according to certain people (non-writers, incidentally), I’m supposed to be averaging 2,000 mostly useable words per day, including research, coffee breaks and answering emails asking why I’m not at 2,000 words yet.
So, it’s finally happened. After four years of homeless, maniacal travel and writing, I’m finally experiencing my first real bout of TWWBB (Travel Writer Wicked Bad Burnout). It sucks. It feels like someone poked me in the part of the brain that allows me to look at a task, figure out how best to get it done and then do it. Now I look at a task, a transistor in my brainstem explodes, my sphincter collapses and I drop to the floor in the fetal position and stay there for six hours. Eight if I was chewing gum.
I don’t like feeling like I can’t work. In addition to my weekly self-imposed responsibility to arrange words in such a way as to get all of you to eject your beverage of choice out your noses, I hate having unfinished work on my plate, even when the deadline is a month away. It gives me the heebie-jeebies. So, while I’ve been sitting here barely eeking out usable material, I’ve been simultaneously freaking out about not getting stuff done. I’m sick people. Seriously. Send in a team.
In fact, I’m thinking about checking myself into rehab. I’m not addicted to anything (apart from caffeine and bad girls), but I’m gonna do it anyway. I need to rest in a controlled environment, without deadlines winding down in the background and people tempting me out of my bed with cider and good company. Plus, being in rehab should do wonders for my P.R. efforts as Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan continue to demonstrate. My celebrity rating would spike about 20 points and then people would be falling over themselves to give me a travel TV show hosting gig.
Oh yeah, there’s that too. While I was too fall-down exhausted to function normally, another great opportunity got away from me. Remember when I was flown to DC from Italy in June for a top secret job interview? Well, not blabbing about it didn’t increase my chances at all, so I won’t be putting you guys through that unpleasantness again.
Anyway, I was there to audition to host a travel TV show. The premise was that we’d be busting travel myths around the world (e.g. Can you really see the Great Wall of China from space? Were workers accidentally entombed in the Hoover Dam? Are Essex girls really easy? Etc.). Sounded cool. But I lost the gig to someone with bigger boobs (first the papacy, now this).
Actually, they gave it to a guy with triple the on-camera energy that I’m capable of generating. Granted, I had been working seven days a week, 10 hours a day for weeks before the audition and had only gotten about 30 hours sleep in the previous six days and was jetlagged all to hell, but from what I hear, even in top form, I was no match for the manic energy of the guy they chose. Just not a good fit. Well, I poop on your good fit! Poop, I say!!!
So, seeing as how I’m still tired and non-productive and not a TV star yet, I’ve decided to extend my stay in Minneapolis to sort out all these issues and eat more tuna burgers (a Pettersen Family acquired taste). After that, I’m going to see about getting a travel TV show hosting gig that requires a guy with subtle, dry humor, low-maintenance hair and a booty that has to be seen to be believed.
Or I could do more freelance writing, but that’s not gonna get me recognized by rabid fans and lonely housewives on trans-Atlantic flights any time soon, so why bother?
Poop, I say!!!
Checking into rehab, if you go Malibu style, might have dual bonus of recharging your brain and scoring with one of those starlets. They may have a few problems but they are beautiful and very rich & probably need someone like you to keep them straight (and working). E-Pet has a cute ring, don’t cha think?
Sorry the TV thing didn’t pan out this time but something more befitting your unique talents will come along (after you have recovered).
Stay off the floor and tell your mom to stop with the food choice stress and just place appropriate time of day meals in front of you when you make hunger sounds.
Sorry to hear about the burnout. Just relax, watch Oprah, and let your inner vegetable run free through the garden of life.
Hope your burnt out ass was too lazy to be on the freeway today.
Fortunately I was miles away from the scene when the bridge collapsed. It’s all very surreal obviously. It’s gonna be days before they get an accurate casualty count, and years before they decide what went wrong and lynch whoever was responsible. Plus, driving around here is going to be effed for about a year and a half until they replace the bridge. That was THE major artery for getting across the city in the north/south direction. 100,000 cars a day now have to find different route, many will probably choose formerly quiet residential neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, I’m getting better at relaxing and ignoring unfinished work. I’m working with a grizzled procrastination coach. I have a whole new perspective on life.
Hey Leif, so glad you’re OK — if it’s any consolation, I’m holed up right now with friends in northwest Arkansas, sick as a dog with at least one article that I now cannot complete, because I overloaded during a 3000-ish mile TX-Chicago-TX road trip and the body said ENOUGH ALREADY.
I am loathe to admit that the answer to everything is not, in fact, to work harder.
Hang in there, “sharpen the saw” as Covey would say, and you’ll be back in battery in much better shape.
Leif. I urge you to do what you can to luxuriate in your exhaustion. Try to think of yourself as in a reasonably good-smelling opium den.
Come on Leif. Who says you have to be productive in life. Don’t pick your burned out soul up from the floor. Don’t even think about moving until your frazzled brain has renewed itself in its own time. The world will go on without you for a few days or a few years, whatever it takes.
I wish you well in your journey back to the living. (This may not be the best place to be).
From one guidebook writer to another: I hear ya, brother. And I have a feeling I am not half the workaholic as you. If one more person says, “Wow, what a dream job you have!” I might be moved to violence. Or not. So tired.