Less Burnout, Please

It’s a new year. Sayonara to 2020! Hopefully 2021 is much better, and not only in terms of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seriously, fuck the coronavirus.

That statement and the brilliant mockumentary “Death to 2020” pretty much express how I feel about last year.

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“Goodbye and good riddance to 2020!”

But to address the topic of this initial post of 2021, I have to first take a quick look back at 2020. (Cue Samuel L. Jackson asking with perplexity, “Why in the fuck would you wanna do that?”)

Okay, no more F-bombs. Got ‘em out of my system.

Anyway…as the potential for the novel coronavirus to wreak havoc on the global economy became more apparent, uncertainty and looming disaster defined the spring. The Japanese companies and organizations that pay for the kinds of translations I do, especially in tourism and promoting the Olympics, slashed their budgets. However, as in previous slowdowns to my business in the wake of shocks caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 and Japan’s April 2014 consumption tax hike, business returned in a couple months.

In fact, it came roaring back with a vengeance and 2020 ended up being my best year yet in terms of income. Sweet! I suppose that’s a silver lining to a year characterized by hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths, political upheaval, millions on the wrong side of the K-shaped recovery now out of work, etc., etc.

Also, my individual business success in 2020 came with a price. Most of the time outside of the two-month springtime lull had me working more than normal. I charge a higher rate for assignments that require time outside of regular business hours, and I was getting plenty of those jobs. That meant many evenings and weekends were packed with translation duty.

The nagging need to make up for the short but unsettling pandemic-induced slowdown and the inability to travel led me to opt out of taking a vacation until Christmas. That was my first real time off in nearly a year. And I don’t consider the two-month slowdown a restful respite because I filled my spare hours with business planning, online courses, and writing.

By December 24th, I was feeling some serious burnout. My mind was slipping into a surreal there/not there state with increasing frequency. There was a stinging pain in my left wrist from using the “Alt+Tab” command so much, despite my addition of a second monitor to mitigate that problem, and I was hesitant to enjoy some time wailing on my guitar or playing video games, two of my favorite things to do, out of concern that doing so could worsen the condition.

The week-and-a-half that I took off beginning on Christmas Day was truly blissful and rejuvenating. I think I spent about half my waking hours curled up in the kotatsu with my Nintendo Switch and an adult beverage.

Normally I take a week off from work every three months or so to travel or spend holidays with my wife and son. One lesson I learned from last year is that I need to keep doing that. If I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution for 2021, that would be it. Even if all I do with my days off is lounge around at home because the pandemic is still raging. And I don’t care if I make a little less money than I did in 2020 because I’m more than achieving my financial goals.

Another thing I want to do is to update this blog on a more regular basis. I’ve been amassing a sizable number of writing ideas that I’ve been neglecting for far too long. I’m going to do my best to set aside some time, if not every day, then maybe every other day or so, to at least do a little bit of work on an upcoming article.

Thanks for reading!


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