Burned out, the new year kind
The new year is here and moving rapidly along, so quickly that I spent one day this past week with my head resting against a wall, four minutes from nodding off, for at least five hours. A lot is changing, really fast. Last year felt like a series of deferred goals and plans, everything pushed further and further down the road until it toppled over the edge and into the new year, and now that new year is here and somehow things are happening. Maybe most decisively, we got a cat, and that’s been a change (a living thing!!!) and I’m still adjusting to what that means for how we operate in our home and in our lives. He’s great and he’s new and he’s different.
At work there are other changes as our newsroom adjusts and takes on new ambitions and steps up its game. My team is working more than ever, which is one of those things that is objectively great, albeit with the heavy byproducts of exhaustion, the fear of change, and my own stubbornness. I’m glad to be pushed and stretched and improved, but I also resent the growth. That will stop, eventually, but for now, in all the fire and frenzy of January, I’ve been giving into exhaustion and temper tantrums. Apologies to all.
What else, what else? I watched the internet have a meltdown over a viral essay on millennial burnout this past week, and that (the meltdown) was an exercise in patience, empathy, and irritation. Interestingly, I liked the essay, which included all the caveats (the author is white, straight, grew up financially comfortable, etc), not because I related to every part of it, but because it helped me relate more to my friends (who are not very white but are mostly straight and almost universally come from affluent backgrounds). The people I love are wildly different from me and one of the few points of similarity is how we’re all exhausted. It was nice to see that articulated! But then everyone online was very angry, for reasons I hadn’t even thought to tease out because I took them for granted — of course everything is worse and different if you’re a person of color, if you’re an immigrant, if you’re sick, if you’re poor. Of course.
I felt annoyed all week, both that everyone was complaining and that I hadn’t thought to. I could’ve shared the article and wailed that it didn’t include me, that it didn’t give a name or a space to other, more nuanced forms of burnout. I could’ve! I just didn’t because I was so relieved to finally have a point of comparison and because I knew full well that I’m burned out despite the nice things I’ve had and would be even without the struggles I’ve had, and that my friends are burned out despite their privileges and despite their struggles (which are very different from mine and hurt them in ways I can’t even begin to understand). And now it’s been a week, the article’s author (a writer I like and respect) has spent days elevating other perspectives on burnout, and I’ve realized that most of the world is not on Twitter and has no idea this ever happened. I live in a bubble!
That all dominated my week, when I had planned to do more productive things — fix up the bike my friend gave me, study so I can have a driver’s license before I’m 30, finally overhaul this newsletter, etc. None of those things happened! But I do plan to study for the license this weekend and, re: this newsletter, I’m slowly changing things up. It’s five years old now and it’s changed dramatically along with me. Once this was devoted to world news and events, which I thought would come in lock-step with my life. Now, I’m a climate reporter and I struggle to keep up with what’s happening in South Asia and Eastern Europe, regions that used to dominate my daily reading.
That depresses me; I love world news and I loved writing and editing world news. It will still have a place in my life and in this newsletter. But what I do is changing and I want to honor that, to give space to the new things I learn about every week, and the fascinating, weird beat that is all things climate and environment. I also want to write more creatively; every since my graduate program ended I’ve been left without a lot of creative opportunities, outside of the limited openings journalism allows. All of which is to say, this little creation I’ve had going for half a decade is still going, just going differently! As always I’ll keep changing it up to see what works. And I hope you’ll all be around for that, whatever that is.
48 books by women and non-binary writers of color. I live for Laura Dern. Appalachian whiteness: a history that never existed. How millennials became the burn-out generation and a deeply thoughtful response to how being burned-out is different for different (read: more vulnerable) people. The lesbian South. Is San Antonio America’s future? On AOC: the exception to the rulers. What it felt like when “Cat Person” went viral (and how strange it was for its queer author.) Han Kang! The wonder of the Arkansas Ozarks.
Me: The shutdown is taking a toll on national parks and advocates plan to FOIA later to assess the damage — but there’s a problem. EPA employees are also suffering during the shutdown, along with the communities they work to protect. Brazil’s new far-right president is making bold pro-industry moves that threaten the Amazon (and global climate efforts).
All non-Gulf coastal states now oppose offshore drilling. And the shutdown seems to be stalling Trump’s own offshore drilling ambitions. West Coast governors asked Trump for wildfire aid; Trump responded by threatening to revoke California’s FEMA aid. Florida’s sweeping new water policies come peppered with caveats.
Elsewhere: If we want to make the green scene the space scene, NASA’s doing some cool shit (so is China, on the far side of the moon). A clean energy revolution rises in the Midwest….thanks to utilities. A multi-state offshore wind collaborative on the East Coast? The shutdown: not great for the planet! Rural towns in the Texas Panhandle boom thanks to immigrants working in agriculture.
Fur seals face a wormier world. Six texts by women on climate change. Solar panel discrimination in Miami? For Georgia farmers, 2018 was gut-wrenching. Florida’s conservative Panhandle hates the shutdown. Texas could run mostly on renewables, per a new report. South Carolina also not into offshore drilling. For one part of the ocean, climate change means getting cooler. The ocean is warming way faster than we thought. Full steam ahead for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline amid plenty of controversy surrounding the Democratic governors who approved it.
Around the Globe
Far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro has assumed power in Brazil, immediately targeting LGBTQ, indigenous, and other vulnerable Brazilians, along with the environment. Netflix capitulated to Saudi Arabia and took down a Patriot Act episode critical of the regime. Congo faced an election delay, one that endured into this week with Felix Tshisekedi emerging as victor. Sudan is blocking social media in an attempt to curb protests against Omar al-Bashir, who has said he will not resign. Yemen’s tragedy is far from over.
Malaysia’s smoking ban isn’t going over well. The stock market shuddered along with China. A no-deal Brexit would be a nightmare for Northern Ireland. It’s the U.S. vs. Venezuela at the WTO. Another term for Venezuela’s Maduro. Trump may declare a national emergency to build a border wall, while the U.S. government concludes its third week of what is now the longest U.S. shutdown in history. Withdrawal from Syria? Junk food has a hold on China’s health officials. Garment workers in Bangladesh are still demanding their rights.
Spoken & Written
“That realization recast my recent struggles: Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it — explicitly and implicitly — since I was young.” — Anne Helen Peterson
My great-grandmother had a persimmon tree in Texas and I grew up hearing a lot about it. The market on our D.C. street offered persimmons this week, so I bought some and I’m going to be ambitious with them — a cake? Scones?
I’ve spent about 15 years trying to re-configure my relationship with Judaism; I’m pretty religious but not always committed to weekly rituals, for a lot of reasons. Still, I went to a Shabbos dinner this weekend and the prayers came back to me quickly, even after a long break. It feels nice to reconnect with something that has had relevance throughout your life, even with ups and downs, and I hope everyone has that thing and finds joy in reviving it, whatever it may be.