To a crisp

Ordinarily, I tend to be highly skeptical of pseudo-trend-mongering pop psychology articles in New York magazine. They’re the precise cognate of the tripe the notorious Jennifer 8. Lee shovels out in the Times, in those foamy, zeitgeisty pieces where she phone-polls six of her overachiever pals over lunch, and proclaims their cozy consensus the new shape of the now.

I’m not, frankly, 100% sure Jennifer Senior’s piece on burnout is all that different. It sure bears all the hallmarks of a piece designed to offer the mag’s self-congratulatory readership the recognition and succor they demand from their media, even to the point of excusing their callous and narcissistic behavior as mere sentinels of an undiagnosed suffering. However much it hurts, though, I have to admit she’s onto something.

Salient aspects of my daily life are inventoried in the piece at a rate something just short of three times per page, in such an accumulation of detail that in reading it, finally, I could no longer pretend I didn’t recognize myself. (And not in that pubescent-hypochondriac-thumbing-through-the-DSM way, either.) The sense of continuous, all-out, Sisyphean effort for a payoff that is excruciatingly difficult to quantify? Check. The hopeless fantasies of moving to a village all bookstores, bikepaths and fresh baguettes, there to make a worthier and more organic life? Check! The awareness of how attention – how time itself – gets drawn and quartered, when the insistent little IM windows of project managers and potential clients blossom onto my screen within seconds of opening the laptop? Oh, roger that.

I feel raw and ablated and exhausted, almost all the time. Perhaps most embarrassing of all is the knowledge that I am experiencing this, even as it’s objectively true that my life is a whole lot better upholstered than that of your average, underpaid and underappreciated Manhattan home health aide or nanny. I may have reason to complain, but, let’s face it, no right to do so. It’s in the worst possible taste, for someone as graced with good fortune as I. (And let’s not forget the counsels of that pernicious little voice inside, reminding me that letting on too publicly about any of this is no good for one’s career.)

And so it’s bite down, suck it up and soldier on. Bike rides help, a little. Time with my friends (and you know who you are) helps a lot. Time with Nurri helps more than words can convey. Even so, it’s a rare day on which the odor of burning metal doesn’t waft through the metaphoric windows. How about you?

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