Burning bright, burning fast – the small degree between burning out and overlasting

Throughout the last few years, I faced the danger of burning out several times. It was both in my job and in my hobbies. That’s probably due to the fact that as long as something thrills me I put all my energy into it. Without hesitation, I dive into a hobby or job head first and deep. I tend to put aside other interests or even people and the only thing I talk about can be my newest passion.

In the last few years, I had two passions or occupations that turned out to burn me down and taking me away from other interests and people outside of those small universes. One was a job that kept me busy like 60 hours a week from Monday to Saturday, sometimes even on Sundays or national holidays. I didn’t have a holiday longer than 2 weeks in the two years I was on the job and I never had a holiday without working from abroad. My company phone rang constantly and emails kept coming and needing my attention although I had a colleague working my part. I remember being on vacation in London with my girlfriend and her father but still working every morning before we went exploring and every evening when we came back to our hotel. Sometimes I check my emails and took calls even through the day. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the job and was okay with how busy it kept me in the first months. Who really had to suffer were my girlfriend and friends because I was constantly overly tensed and jumpy, always tired and often very angry. I left very early for work and came home late, sometimes even leaving in the night to check if everything was going fine (we worked double shift) or to work through some mistakes that happened during late shift. I neglected my duties at home and left my girlfriend alone at home many times. I sometimes even left sit-ins with friends in a haste to work. But I learned so much and most of the time the job was so interesting that all the above didn’t matter for me. I was consumed by the job and disregarded everyone who said that it was no good for me.

In the end, I started hating the job, my boss, the company and my self for what I had become. I always had and still have the opinion that one should work to live not the other way round. For me, a good job is the possibility to live the lifestyle I want to live. If the job gives you the feeling of fulfillment and then you have great colleagues, then you found a rare gem. Keep it!
The end was that after 22 months I realized something had to change. This job constantly kept burning me down and I had long ago left the path of a healthy stress level. Therefore I changed job, stepped back from working 20 hours overtime every week. Best thing: I found a better paying job in a global company with not even half of the stress level I previously had! The tension released and my personal stress level sank rapidly. I was able to be a friend and boyfriend again.

The second thing that got me burned was a hobby I really loved. It was the X-Wing Miniatures Game. After I first played and got to know some fantastic people who were in the game, I dove in more deeply every week. Every Friday I did not go home but took the night to play with plastic miniatures. I came home late and the only thing I could think or talk about was the game. I preferred traveling to tournaments to spending the weekend with my girlfriend and friends. I even started a blog and podcast about the game to give something back to the amazing X-Wing scene and the people I met through the hobby.
But after a while, I realized that I started writing my articles unwillingly and didn’t want to do the research for our podcast episodes anymore. I felt like they payback I wanted did not come. It felt like no one in the scene didn’t even read what I wrote. The hobby started to drain as much energy from me as it gave to me. My girlfriend started to hate it as the only thing I talked about was the game as well as in a positive way as in negative ways. The end of the story was that I gave up on the hobby after I moved to another city. I tried to get a foot into the new local scene but it didn’t feel right anymore. Therefore I’ve put the game aside to get rid of an old addiction.

Did I learn my lesson from those cases? Well…I am not sure. I fell in love with a new hobby – bouldering. I am putting very much into this new passion at the moment but I think I’ve learned when and where to draw the line and rein myself in. And that’s the lesson I want to share:
Find your limits and go up to them – but don’t cross the line. Going over it may lead to the loss of loved people and the burn out syndrome we read about so much. So let me say it with a simple sentence:
Know your limits and respect them.

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