I don’t know anyone who is feeling refreshed and excited and ready to rejoin the world right now. Pretty sure almost everyone is some kind of burnt out mess. Vaccinations helps, but have not provided the cure to our collective anxiety. Some people are planning to have a good time this summer, but I’ve also seen a lot of people posting about how they’re going to join the cicadas: go outside, plant themselves in a tree, and scream.
I’ve been telling my friends I’m a step beyond that. I’m the brittle little shells the cicadas leave behind. A pure human embodiment of insect remains.
And you know what? I’m okay with that.
I have spent a lot of this year screaming and crying and worrying myself into an anxiety spiral. I don’t think that makes me unique.
A pandemic happened (and is still happening! IT IS STILL HAPPENING). A whole bunch of political stuff hit the fan. We’re reckoning on the realities of systemic racism on a national level. There is an underlying layer of trauma in all our interactions.
Everyone is realizing that the way things used to be kind of…sucked? Maybe they shouldn’t be that way anymore.
So let’s not be that way anymore.
Traditionally, I am the kind of person who runs myself into the ground. I say yes and yes and yes and take it all on until I can’t remember the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass (shoutout to my man Frodo who knows what’s up).
In the past, my mom would give me stern talks about how I needed to tell people no. That it was okay to focus on my own stuff and not everyone else’s. These days, my husband is the primary “focus on yourself” pep talker.
And have I ever been in need of one of those talks. It’s nice to think that the end of 2020 brought about the end of all the stress. But it didn’t (spoiler alert).
Finally, I realized that making jokes about being a cicada husk wasn’t cutting it. I had reached peak burnout and needed to make a change.
So I did. I decided to leave my work situation and try something different. Forge a new path. Maybe, find a new job, embrace unemployment, watch the kids during the day, pursue freelance work, the possibilities are vast! If nothing else, taking a few weeks to find new work means more continuous time off than I’ve had in years.
I realize that not everyone is privileged enough to do this and that leaving your job without a backup plan is fully impossible for many folks.
But what if we all looked at ourselves, our little screaming inner selves and embraced the burnout? Can you just stop a thing (even a very small one)? What can you do for you?
A lot of people are doing it. Changing careers, looking for meaningful work, refusing to go back into the office. We should all do this! Embrace your burnout. Make a change. Be free! Even if that means a baby step, one dropped responsibility, a plan to start something that will lead to change. Fight exploitation and injustice on a tiny micro scale or a great big macro one.
We should all spend the summer as cicadas screaming in a tree. Because screaming is cathartic and wonderful.
Our massive cicada family can rise up and scream in unison. Let’s do something else. Going back to normal is not the answer. Let’s not do normal. Let’s do something different. It’ll be hard and weird and we’ll find ourselves burnt out again at some point or come to the conclusion we never really conquered it, we just harnessed it in a different way.
Give your burnt out self or friend or spouse a big old hug.
And then…I don’t know.
Anything can happen after that dried out husk blows away.