“it’s not about learning to say NO, it’s about learning to consciously say YES”
“My work situation before the burn out was basically part-time education at the InHolland University of Applied Sciences and part-time self-employed at AmIaDesigner, which was way more then a full workweek as education always takes more time then your contract says and AmIaDesigner was a start up which also required working during the weekend.”
Looking back at this period, at some point really doing a 70 hour workweek, turned into having the feeling of a 70 hour workweek, because at some point I just became less and less productive, but my brain kept on feeling the pressure.
At some point in your burn out period you have to start working again. Which is a scary thing as work is the biggest part of the reason why I got the burn out in the first place. It then helps when the people your work with gives you the space to really find out how work works again. I want to thank Willem Viets, my manager at the University who really give me the space and time to find out what my role in education is. And big thanks to fellow designer Marieke van Dijk for taking me on her co-design projects and for always seeing my potential and having patience with me.
As I was mentally (for personal reasons) not able again to work with AmIaDesigner anymore. I first started working again at the University, which basically meant I shut my self up in a small office for two hours, do some things and then went back home again, without talking to anyone during those two hours. But hey I was starting again!
After a while two hours became halve a day per week and those became two halve days a week etc. And at some point interaction with colleagues and students grew, I left the small office and started working at our main open office floor with my fellow colleagues. My manager Willem encouraged me to start working again quiet soon (after 4 weeks) and I am thankful for that, as you have to start interacting with the people around you again and leave the house. Let me describe a few working experiments I did, both at the University and with Marieke van Dijk.
Being a teacher at a University your main responsibilities are to educate and make sure a good part of the students passes the classes you give. At some point in my burn out recovery, I thought I was kind of over the burn out and done with experimenting. Oh boy was I wrong! There was an experiment in disguise waiting for me.
I switched from developing education to designing it, which worked brilliantly. I made my education more vulnerable which although intense worked really good. But at some point I had to grade my students after a design project they did in class. There I smashed into a concrete wall again! My (written) feedback to students on their project was downright mean. I turned into this asshole, that literally was miscalling my students. And I kind of had no control over it.
I felt super tense in my body and while reflecting on this terrible me, I found out that I am more a designer then I am a teacher. And although I worked in the most amazing educational program, that grading didn’t fit my values in this way that I want a equal and open learning experience where both students and teachers learn form each other and telling students “ You learned a lot but not enough to pass the class” just didn’t worked for me anymore. The responsibility I had & felt all these years as a teacher didn’t belong to me anymore. Which at the end let me to quit my teaching job, luckily with happy faces from both sides, and since last April I took the big leap of going fully self employed, which was a really good choice so far.
Marieke invited me to join her on co-design sessions as a facilitator/ co-lead after two months doing nothing with design. She learned me again that design is fun and play. You work on serious things, but the actual designing and working with people is fun.
She let me experience my strengths again without any judgment. She saw my qualities, that I had not seen myself for a long time. I needed that confidence from her to find my own confidence again. She basically let me do my thing and afterwards always said. “Thanks” and “Good job”. And actually more organically she had me do design work experiments that really helped me finding out what worked for and what didn’t. And most importantly Marieke helped me re-discover my love for design again, as that love was completely lost in the beginning of the burn out.
I again want to thank Willem Viets and Marieke van Dijk for there support and trust. They played a major role in getting my work act together. They gave me freedom and trust.
“knowing when feeling responsible matches being responsible”
In the next couple of blogs I shall show examples of what these experiments looked like in my personal life.
Previous Re-design your life blogs
Author: Jeroen Spoelstra
Featured image: Dennis Cup