Let me list the ways that burnout happens in this industry, and especially in open source. No, I don’t need to. Because you know them already. I’m not burnt out, I promise. I’m reprioritizing, just letting you know.
* * *
We can all learn to be a normal human being again. It’s good. It feels good. I used to check and answer my GitHub notifications as the first task I did each morning and the last task I did each night. Then I’d carry my tired eyes to bed. Not now. Those things are near the bottom of my Todo list now. They have been for awhile and no one noticed. (I think.) They’ll get done — eventually, just not first. Or maybe they won’t get done. And that’s ok, too.
There’s plenty of burnt toast to go around. We can share. You can even borrow my toaster, although you might need to bring your own plug. But hey, free toaster — am I right? Just don’t stick a fork in it after you turn it on. I never intended for it to work that way.
Wait, are you still there? Now I remember. Once someone told me it will work with plastic forks — but be careful, it will melt plastic forks after a certain amount of time. Sorry, I wasn’t really thinking about forks when I was making the toaster. Did you try using a gas-powered toaster instead?
* * *
This is a privilege. Open source can be rewarding. Open source can bring you many gifts. I’ve opened them so many times over. But those gifts are mostly wrapped in thankless, sleepless, countless nights of volunteering time and energy. And that’s ok. Because money isn’t that important. Because power to the people. Because fuck the man. But sometimes — if you’re lucky — those gifts are wrapped in gratitude and friendship. That was worth it. Everything is ok until it one day it’s not ok. There will never be enough time to close every issue and merge every pull request. The notifications are an endless tape fed through a Turing machine, making strange loops across our digital and analog worlds.
We work on machines. So we act like machines. So we think like machines. We can do this well enough and long enough to convince the machine that we are a machine, and to convince the other machines on the other sides of the screens. Who is convincing whom, again? Is there a mind behind those eyes and screens or another program waiting to halt? Instead, we can do normal things. We can do more valuable things. Like read a book. Like run for miles in the woods. Like spend time with your loved ones. Like eat burritos.
* * *
In college, I was in a hardcore band. Those times were so fun. We worked hard. Our music was brutal. These lyrics I wrote back then still resonate with me now. I haven’t forgotten them. They will probably resonate with you too. This song was short, but so heavy.
Line after line
I can’t feel my eyes
I made this for you
From thin air
This is passion
I’m not burnt out. Because I’m diligently resisting the pressure — implicit and explicit. Everything will still be there tomorrow. But isn’t that the problem? Nah. I’m reprioritizing, honestly. Honestly? Yeah, that’s what I’ll tell them when I peel my eyes away from this black mirror.