Monday, July 29, 2013

This is burnout.

I have no advice today.

I have no wise words, no helpful hints, no simple tricks to try in a sticky situation. I'm bereft of helpfulness for anyone, including myself. I'm in a place where I've used up all my smart, all my funny, all my helpful, all my useful. I can no longer lean in, step up, take charge, be strong, and make things happen. It's because I've been leaning in for the past year at work on a big, fast, impossible project, and I'm burned out.

When I say "burned out", I don't mean that I'm tired and could use a week's vacation or maybe a couple months of normal workweeks and workloads. I mean BURNED. OUT. It's the kind of feeling where the thought of answering one question regarding that project--or any project I've been working on or helping out on--sends me into a fit of rage, tears, or sighing, followed by the words "I don't care; do what you want." I mean running to the bathroom every couple of hours so I can cry for five minutes, so I can go back to my desk and answer more questions and emails, be smart, be helpful, and be kind to my staff, who are not particularly the cause of my tears. I can't stand the thought of working on my existing project. I can't stand the thought of starting something new, with more ridiculous deadlines and panic and half-ass information from the client and lack of staff and mixed messages from my bosses and every other thing that has plagued me for the past year. I can't stand the thought of doing simple administrative tasks at the office--things that aren't project related but are appropriate for someone at my managerial level. And I can't stand the thought of being at home, where I'm not supposed to be at 2pm on a Wednesday but it's clear I'm not getting anything done at work.

I'm struck with the overwhelming feeling that I'm weak and I've failed. I can't bear the burden of running projects, can't stand the thought of sticking with the project and seeing it through to what kind of role model does that make me for the interns and young architects in my office? How can I tell my interns that they need to be diligent and follow through and think through RFIs and questions when I hate the thought of looking at those drawings so much that I've stopped wearing mascara because I just cry it off before noon? How can I reinforce professionalism to my staff when I'm constantly holding back the urge to give my bosses a five-finger death punch to the neck? How dare I admonish someone for a casual email or statement on a phone call when my two favorite words are "fuck" and "goddamn"?

And where do I get the nerve to post anything on this blog, giving advice to young professionals and telling them how they need to act and speak and write emails and arrange their resumes when I'm a dumpster fire in an Ann Taylor pantsuit?

I don't know what any of this means just yet. Readers have said nice things about this blog, so on the one hand I'd like to keep it up. But I'm utterly worn out to the point that even the most basic of tasks seems impossible. I also feel like a fraud telling people to get their shit together when I can't get my own together. It may mean that I'm posting less regularly, less forcing of the content and more posting just as something interesting comes to me. It may mean that this blog goes quiet for a while as I sort out this feeling of ants crawling just beneath my skin and the sound of blood constantly rushing in my ears.

I feel like I owe you all an explanation and perhaps even an apology for the poverty of content in recent months. My writing has been half-hearted and hollow, even platitude-filled to the point of being trite. You  all deserve good, thoughtful writing and discussions on meaningful topics, and I haven't really been providing that. You deserve better, and I ask your patience as I work towards whatever that better is.



  1. Lulu, I've not commented before, but I feel like I should. I'm currently on an architecture course and am entering my final year. I can't say I've felt the same, but I have felt like jacking it all in, and punching several people in the face! I hope you can sort your head out, take some time for yourself, maybe have a weekend away. You could even look into counselling as it sounds like you may be on the brink of having depression (I had counselling a while ago and it really helped my work attitude). I really hope you're ok, don't apologise to us readers, everyone gets snowed under every once in a while. I send you virtual hugs :) xxx

  2. Lulu:

    First off, hang in there. I feel like you have offered this same advice to many a young architectural professional over the years and sometimes we forget to heed our own advice. Architecture is a rough, knock down, drag out fight that just keeps on coming, wave after wave. Don't let it beat you. You have made it this far, achieved this much.
    Secondly, I will offer you my mantra that has always given me some solace and comfort. It is simply "Fuck it". When the pressure mounts around you, the tasks seem too much to handle, when the mundane becomes a deafening and excruciating battle, say to yourself "fuck it". Do your best, put in the effort, but don't let it beat you. Don't let things ruin your day, don't let them hold you back from enjoying life. Maybe this includes a walk around the block to clear your head. Maybe this includes a (large) glass of wine after work, or a beer over lunch.
    You are in control of the world around you and the emotions you feel.
    Just remember... At the end of the day we are just human, it is just a job, it's not necessarily life or death. If you are unhappy you have the power to change it, whether it be through your outlook or greener pastures.

    Keep your chin up.


  3. I feel your pain...I'm in the same boat, or at least was until we slowed down so much everyone but the owners were ayed off. I can't stand the thought of going back and so am taking my time to explore starting my own firm but keeping it small. Not sure if you want any advice/helpful hints...if you do...breathe. Take some time on days off/at lunch and go back over why you're in this profession and not doing something else. Look at what your expectations are of how your life/work life should look and how they actually look and problem solve to change what you can. Good luck!

  4. This post so accurately captures my feelings about work for the last six months - just thinking about how talk to my boss about getting off a horrible project had me close to tear last night. Not to mention the feelings of failure to run a project (isn't this what I worked towards?) or see it through to the end (where's my commitment?). It's really good to hear that others feel this way, please do keep writing.

  5. Sent you an e-mail that I don't want to share to the public...

  6. This is the first day that I've read your blog. I found it after searching for "alternate 'intern architect' job titles and descriptions". Our company just reorganized and re-titled most of the employees(oh joy), including categorizing all non-licensed architects as Intern architect. The new job descriptions are far from accurate and I think your intern descriptions will help us create more appropriate titles and job descriptions.
    I'm truly sorry to hear that you have "The burnout". It's somewhat comforting to know that others have reached the same level of apathy for a project that you were initially excited and proud to work on. I hope you are able to pull yourself out of the funk and keep writing to inspire the rest of us to move past the apathy and find the passion for architecture, once again.

  7. Time to switch jobs. It eventually turns into the same stress, but you get at least a good year in between.