By Christi Jeane
PROMPT — Despite ...
"Exhaustion is killing my creativity."
This thought crept into my head about six weeks ago, and it won’t leave me alone. So I'm trying to listen to this loud, bothersome thought of mine and process what it’s telling me. And more importantly, how to swat away this gnat that keeps flying about in my head: How can I tackle or relieve or subdue my exhaustion and get back to my creativity? This is the paradox of purpose: how to balance my cherished career that pays the bills with my passionate purpose that fills my soul.
Going back to that moment six weeks ago, it all started when I was given the opportunity to lead the owner’s field team as construction manager of a multi-million dollar roadway expansion project. This opportunity literally fell into my lap. Just three months before that moment, I was told I would only be needed for “a couple months” to help out on this project and that I would be responsible for nothing. Oh, how the tides change in life, eh? But now that the original construction manager was leaving, they needed a replacement, and congratulations, you are our new person!
I could say a lot more about all my feelings wrapped up in this moment, but it’s nothing new or groundbreaking. The truth of the matter is, my achiever self saw a moment that we couldn’t pass up, the moment where a woman in a man’s field is looked at as worthy, validated, and capable. The moment we realize we better not turn this down, say no, back off, or in any way indicate we are not ready for this. Because an opportunity like this may never come around again, leaving me stranded on the island of Career Plateau where I struggle to fight my way back to the island of Career Growth through false starts of over-explaining, tired arms that wave, “I’m over here!” and getting the wind knocked out of me each time I have to overcome that fleeting look of, “But, you’re a woman, do you really know what you’re talking about?”
And now, I’m exhausted. Before I whine a bit, I do want to preface and say this is a great job. Everyone I work with each day—from the contractor to stakeholders to my own small team of engineers, managers, and inspectors—is committed and ready to build this road, and we get a joke in every now and then to ease the tensions of the day. And considering the position I was put in, I know I’m doing my best.
But I’m also an introvert in an extroverted world. I crave autonomy, focus, and deep thinking to handle the myriad amounts of field data, requests for information, and constant surprises that engulf a single job site. A barrage of interruptions from phone calls to emails to texts to Teams messages to Skype messages to knocks on doors can overwhelm my system pretty quickly. I expect these interruptions and obviously need them to get the work done. But as the outgoing construction manager told me, I’m in the hot seat. I am the central person everyone comes to for answers. And it’s killing my creativity.
Why? Because after the blur of a day rushes by, like a tidal wave you see coming that is actually way bigger when it reaches you and knocks you over, I can’t catch my breath. The work I react to and get done vs. the work I could get done if I had all the time in the world, or all the help in the world, are miles apart right now. And my little achiever self doesn’t like this so much. The heaviness of what I “could” do has been crushing my spirit of what I want to do.
I’ve worked incredibly hard the past 18 months on my own personal growth, setting boundaries, saying no, not writing self-care off as a 21st century trend but actually feeling it’s benefits and restoration. Slowly I feel all of that slipping away, like a distant memory of someone I used to be, but in fact never got to fully be in the first place.
So on this beautiful spring Saturday morning, where I see a cloudless, bright blue sky and hear those happy birds chirping away, I decided to get up early instead of sleeping in three hours past my normal wake up time and just write. My writing is not as deep or clean or world-changing as I’d like it to be. But I’m here.
I was reminded by one of my beloved podcasts this week that the words will be there, that the greatest song lyrics in the world won’t just disappear should an artist not immediately capture them (thanks, Bruce Springsteen). Especially as an introvert, I get so worried that if I don’t do something right now when the mood strikes, it will be gone forever. Six weeks later, I’m so relieved to know that’s not true. My creativity lives on in the face of, maybe even in spite of, my exhaustion. I just have to fight harder for it, knowing that the battles won’t end in either substance or intensity. Yet I also acknowledge the two-sided nature of the battle—when to lay down my pen and rest, or when to pick my pen up and start wielding again.
Christi Jeane is an engineer by day who finds fulfillment in writing by night. She enjoys creative nonfiction writing on a variety of topics. You can find her on Instagram or Medium: @cjdubs03 and as a writer for The Kindred Voice. Christi writes from Denver, Colorado.