Earlier this year I was experiencing burnout, big time.
I didn't really acknowledge it creeping up on me because everybody gets stressed, right? Nobody can keep on top of the house, it seems. Everyone spends their evenings full of teary rage because of something that happened at work, don't they? Everyone's first thought when they wake up in the morning is how long until they can be asleep again... Isn't it?
During that time, I was there, but not really there. Lights on but nobody home etc. I was working a full time job which zapped me of all my energy and enthusiasm, and where I soaked up a lot of anxious, frustrated feelings and projected them as my own. When getting home for the day I didn't even have the energy to shower or to cook dinner, nevermind pursue an art practice in the spare moments. I had 'artist' written in my Instagram bio like some sort of digital identifier, but was I really?? Alice Vincent wrote recently, 'I have found myself longing for a little room; to be able to think, rather than just do.' Doing was all I had space for, and the only things being done were not charging my battery. They weren't even maintaining my battery. It was quickly depleting actually, and before I knew it I was at 0% and was forced to switch off.
Being off-sick from work offered the space that I needed. I was able to calm down my racing and chaotic thoughts and focus on myself, the additional time drip feeding me precious energy droplets. For a long while I remained on 0%, the loading icon illuminating my dark screen to reassure me that charging was happening, but that it needed a minute to gather enough oomph to power on. But as I remained in my charging position, in flight mode and prioritising my energy, my battery slowly did begin to fill back up, and I re-discovered what it's like to have space for thinking.
Space for wondering. Space for planning. Space for imagining. My body gradually let go of the survival mode it was in, stretching out to conquer more than just the bare minimum to get us through the day. Then as my brain learnt to flex those muscles again, the first thing it started to reconsider was my art practice. This was the start of a frankly life-saving journey to the position I'm in now.
Which is: I'm joining the ranks of 'the great resignation'. After enrolling at the Wolverhampton School of Art as a naive lil undergrad student in 2012, and clinging on as a staff member ever since, ten years on is a nice round number to wrap this chapter up. I have decided to leave my role and the university. The decision hasn't been easy, and the art school remains a sacred and special place for me which I will always be thankful for, but I feel this is the right moment for this change, and crucially, for me to seek a more sustainable balance that allows space for wondering.
Today is my last official day of employment with the uni, although all my duties have already been wrapped up and I'm 'finished' already. A couple of days ago I sent out some emails to announce my departure - the closest I could get to some physical closure during the summer period (a strange time of year for academic life). And the responses I've received remind me of the wonderful people I'm so grateful to have been introduced to through the university. Students I have grown with, colleagues who have supported me, memories I will always treasure. I have buckets of gratitude for each of you - the people that make the art school so magic.
Hopefully what's next makes it worthwhile to leave