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Trying (and failing) to find something happy

Nov. 5, 2021

I will admit, I am in a dark place a lot lately.

Don’t get this confused with not being able to go out. Refuse to let extroverts make introverts feel guilty for not going out in the public. I can 100% guarantee you that being around other people would fix my overall disposition. I find other people… Draining. Going out in public has the exact opposite effect on me. I dislike eating at restaurants, prefer to watch movies at home (where I can have real captions on the screen and not in some dumb box), and would never waste my time shopping in a store where they probably don’t have what I’m looking for.

The last 5 years or so has been a real slog for me, mostly in my professional life. I hit burnout and it changed my personality and demeanor permanently. When the pandemic came I was laid off, got a new job, moved across the country, and generally haven’t slowed down since. I never took the time to recover from burnout. In general I’ve felt like this quote from Ella Dawson referring to their own burnout:

“I lost my sense of humor. I stopped doing the creative hobbies that defined me, instead playing hours and hours of Rollercoaster Tycoon. I couldn’t go to the professional events that my boyfriend needed me to attend with him. I canceled plans I’d looked forward to for months. My only relief came when it was time to fall asleep, and even then I was plagued with stress nightmares about tweets.”

To be honest, there was not way I could have recovered. First, what would have made the most impact would be to actually slow down. To take a break and be with family. But, like most people in the US, not having a paycheck was not an option. Even missing one was challenging. At the time I was laid off I was renting a townhome in Arizona. Luckily in the time we lived in the shithole people call “The Valley”, we were able to rent the home we own south of Seattle. After being laid off, we quickly packed up and moved by to Washington, which was our plan to do before the end of the 2021 anyway. The job change just crammed our timeline down to about 3 weeks instead of 24 months.

Second, as many other people have written about, recovering from burnout may not actually ever happen. At least not without professional help. But that, again, comes with a cost that I, like most people, cannot afford.

Browsing through the recommendations found in publications point to one of two options for those afflicted:
1) Take an extended sabbatical on your father’s yacht while living in your Grandfathers million dollar loft.
2) Capitalist your way out of it.

I’m never surprised that capitalism is the recommendation from most. Not only are we always just one purchase away from happiness, but these websites gotta make money from affiliate links somehow. I really doubt buying a salt lamp will make me happy except for the 3 seconds of dopamine from making a purchase. Having always struggled to pay the bills, making a dumb purchase lingers on my brain longer than anything because then I’m constantly questioning how many hours I needed to do work to afford this dumb item.

The reality is there is no quick fix and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You can’t just vacation your way out of burnout.

Where I have been stuck in the last few months is struggling to find the things that make me happy. Things that I would call “fun”. I know what they were previously, but now so much of what I used to call fun now feels like work. Blogging, making videos, building new computers, self-hosting, gardening, even video games all feel like they are tasks on a checklist and I can’t relax until they are done. For example, I could set aside a Saturday to do gardening, play some video games, and then do some technical writing in the evening. These are things I used to consider fun and would make me happy doing them. However, life has found a way to take away the fun and instead turn them into chores. I have to garden because I have the raised beds that aren’t being used. I have to finish this video game before I move on to another. I can’t write the way I want to because that won’t get any views.

How do you find the things that make you happy? What do you do for fun? How do you make sure it continues to be fun? How do you push back against the feeling that everything needs to be optimized, accomplished, and efficient? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself pretty much every day. Send me your resources, your tips, or even if you are looking for the same answers. It is dangerous to go alone, we should be partners.

Tweet at me @domcorriveau