Welcome back, loyal followers. Hope you’re well and the gray-matter clockwork’s still ticking along smoothly.
On the off chance it isn’t, however, you’re in luck. This week’s post is dedicated to those of you that are one spinal camel-straw away from the utter implosion of your own headspace, a trauma undoubtedly sending you into a straight-up medieval rampage as you expunge from this mortal coil innocent beasts and humans alike, wreaking your bloody vengeance against a cold, cold world.
So chill. Please. For the kittens’ sake.
GODS, NOT THE KITTENS!
See? Dire straits, man.
So rest, Neo. The answers are coming.
Friends, this week is all about the burnout. (And no, not this expensive asshattery.)
Be it professional, societal, or confoundingly philosophical, everyone knows the feeling of the dreaded burnout. It’s a weird, ineffable combination of physical/mental fatigue, vague emotional frustration, and overall doneness usually resulting from a prolonged intake of real-world-type woes and practical day-to-days of just getting by. It makes you start looking at your fellow upright beings through the aforementioned carmine-tinted lens of bloodlust coupled with an unshakeable feeling that no one else seems to really get it, priority-wise.
Maybe you’re pulling too many all-nighters for school. Maybe you’re clawing your way out from the bowels of crippling debt. Maybe you’re starting to regret taking that lucrative city job since it only ever serves to burden you with anxiety and FUBAR every last minute of your social life. Maybe you’re struggling to find employment at all.
And those are the easy ones.
All of these things (and thousands of unlisted others) ceaselessly pounding away at your moral fiber and fortitude, day in and day out, will inevitably lead a rational person to start asking the same question—
Why am I doing this to myself? Why do I feel like I need these things? Why have I deemed this physical, quantifiable stuff so important to my psychic well-being? Just why, man?
To all of these questions, I propose a beautifully simple two-word solution that has served me extraordinarily well over the past ten years:
Notice how I didn’t say “generic travel” or “overseas odyssey” or "expensive flight" (though, in some cases these might suffice, as long as you keep the next point in mind when assembling your itinerary). The type of trip I’m emphasizing here is of a very specific boots-on-the-ground variety.
If you suffer from burnout, you're likewise probably suffering—to go a little granola on you—from a severe disconnect with your own biological roots caused by the daily onslaught of civilized society. And think about it for a second: how "real" is all of that human-construct-jargon? This will sound like a silly question to a lot of people, but just what the hell is "money," anyway? Yeah, yeah, I know it has its place in helping the globalized world to function and all. I only ask you to reflect on this question, and maybe take stock of what it means in and for your life.
In my experience, the only cure for this kind of burnout is to seek immediate reunition with Mother Earth, with your human history, and maybe with a little bit of thrill- and adrenaline-seeking on the side so you can remember what the bloody hell “fun” is. (Sidenote: at the very least, I highly recommend nailing down a more circadian-friendly sleep schedule, especially if you've found you're addicted to workahol.)
Example: Let us consider the tale of brave cyclist and fellow thrill-seeker Jedediah Jenkins.
First off: sweet name, dude.
Second: if you haven’t heard of him yet, Google him now.
Got him? Good.
Bookmark him, follow his Instagram, and for the love of Zeus, buy his book (when it’s done) and help support what this guy is all about.
Jedidiah Jenkins, rocking the sweetest name this side of the 21st century, began a severe self-examination about where his life was headed upon reaching his third decade on this earth. After some serious soul searching, Jenkins drew upon the collected wisdom of John Muir, Benjamin Franklin, and his own parents, setting out on a 16-month bicycle journey from Oregon to Patagonia.
I’ll say that again—Oregon to goddamned Patagonia.
I quadruple-dog dare you.
(For the record, if you ask Google Maps for directions from friggin’ Oregon to friggin’ Chile, it will tell you, very politely, to go f&$% yourself with a rolled up world map and calculator, you lazy bastard, you.)
Patagonia, if you’ve never heard of it, is a geographic region shared by Chile and Argentina that looks something like this:
Cue granola-flavored drool.
So anyway, Jenkins, this skinny, unassuming American dude hit that same wall that we all hit from time to time. But guess what? He decided to do something about it.
He grabbed his destiny by the throat—saved some money, quit his job, and embarked on one of the most amazing personal journeys that’s ever been documented, all with nothing but his wits, some gear, a little cash, and his trusty steed.
Good. That means you’re showing renewed signs of life, verve, and vim. Well done, fellow human.
Personally, I’ve found that I hit that “screw this” wall about once a year (twice in a particularly crappy one), at which point I bail from whatever paying gig I’ve got at the time, hop in a road trip-friendly vehicle with an analog map, plenty of snacks, some tunes, and my best friend since high school, and just drive.
It’s the world’s greatest self-reset button.
But where to go, you ask? Wherever you damn well please—that's the point. The only part that really matters is that you’re directly involved in the process. Nay: in control of the process. Deciding each and every move for yourself. Being truly independent. That’s the important bit. No guided tours, no all-inclusive resorts, not even a preordained route if you can help it. Leave some wiggle room. You’ll be glad you did. Even Mark Vanhoenacker, in his new tell-all book about the life of a commercial airline pilot, says that hiking is one of the best ways that he speeds up his recovery from place- and jet-lag. He says he doesn't know if it's just the exercise or the physical act of stepping foot on soil that actually helps, but I certainly have my theories...
So find your reset button. You'll probably be needing it. If not now, then soon.
Stay in control, friends. Assert some dominance over your own life. At risk of sounding like a motivational cat poster, Steer It, Don't Fear It.
That’s it for now, but I’ll leave you with this final Dose of Perspective:
Even the smartest/richest/most talented among us are all a bunch of screaming, whinging, laughing, copulating monkeys on a flying rock in an immeasurably vast amount of mostly empty space.
Remember that next time you start to take the whole “life” or "society" thing too seriously.