The burnout bar

Hey blog world. I’m not dead! Just really busy. And sleep deprived (yay for chronic insomnia).

But it’s the WA Day public holiday here in Western Australia, so I carved out some time to pen a few thoughts. And with “state daddy” Mark McGowan announcing his resignation as Premier and Member for Rockingham a week ago due to burnout, it got me thinking about my own breaking point.

It was late on a Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2012. I was in my friend’s car, and he was driving me home from the Scarborough pub that would later loosely inspire the Sherlock Arms in Black and Blue.

But that manuscript was still a while away. On this Sunday, I was just a girl in a car, crying because I had to go to my Toxic Job the next day.

I would continue to alternate between crying, nausea and total numbness every week until I finally quit that job with nothing lined up. I was still at the beginning of my career, but I’d always been quite anxious and cautious – so up until that moment, I never thought I’d be the person who left a job without a backup plan.

I realise many people don’t have the luxury of being able to do that anyway. But I did, I took the chance and I don’t regret it. I was burnt out and dying inside.

It’s been 10 years now but I did actually learn a lot from Toxic Job. Like how not to behave as a professional… Think workplace affairs between managers and direct reports, threats against ex-employees, exploitation of recent graduates less likely to know how to advocate for themselves, and just gross misconduct.

But more to the point, Toxic Job became my bar.

I have high levels of social anxiety and moderate levels of generalised anxiety. I find I have to put up with things I’m uncomfortable with pretty much every day of my life in order to participate in society. That’s just the way it is, and it can be exhausting, but I handle it.

However, Toxic Job is the standard I won’t walk past. If anything ever gets as bad or feels as icky as that, whether it’s in a professional or personal context, I’m checking out.

Writing-wise, things are moving pretty slowly but I’ve got two projects in the works: my second novel and a poetry collection. So that will probably be books 2 and 3 – I don’t know which will be ready first at this stage, but that answer should reveal itself in due course.

I want to write a poem

I want to write a poem –
the kind that inspires
the kind that lights a fire in your soul
the kind that speaks every word
of your heart’s desires
the kind you’ll want to quote
so that I won’t even care that I peaked
with this poem.

But –
I can’t find the words
and I don’t know what needs to be heard
and when I try to write a rhyme
it sounds absurd.

So –
I start to search for the perfect

the perfect pen
the perfect notebook
the perfect desk
the perfect ergonomic chair

the perfect procrastination.

Maybe –
the clothes make the poet
so I search for “poet outfit” with a flourish
but in my fervent fingering I slip slight right
and hit a p instead of an o.

My thumbs get as far as “poet put”
before the little engine that could
(that does)
predicts my next words.

“poet put head in oven”

And I think –
Sylvia Plath could find the words
Sylvia Plath needed to be heard
but on this absurd day
she is reduced

to a head
in an oven.

And I wonder –
will anyone remember

© Lee-Ann Khoh

It’s still National Poetry Month for a few more days so I thought I’d share something I wrote after one of Shelby Leigh’s poetry club workshops. (If you join the poetry club and check out the workshop replays, it’s the April 2023 one with Sierra DeMulder.)

Feel free to let me know what you think of the poem, even if what you think is “This is super wanky.” (But if you can articulate something more constructive than that, I’d appreciate it, lol.)

I spake! (But I’d rather not.)

I spake… though the ability to speak does not make me intelligent, nor brave, nor normal. Ha.

Yes, that’s meant to be a garbled reference to the scene in The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon Jinn inadvertently rescues Jar Jar Binks. Because I will defend the Star Wars prequels until the day I die. And people keep talking about Ahmed Best’s “redemption” like he did something wrong when he didn’t – it’s the stupid toxic fandom that needs to redeem itself.

Alright, now that I got that off my chest…

I hate public speaking. It’s the worst. I know I’m not unusual in that regard.

But I also hate regular speaking. I’ve just had to get over it in order to, you know, function in society. I’m basically a walking introvert meme with a huge dose of millennial angst.

So I can’t say I’ll ever be thrilled about public speaking. But I did it this week – presented a 3.5 hour workshop to a disability organisation and I think it went okay. Could’ve been better, but to be fair, things can always be better.

Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at masking the more extreme manifestations of my anxiety and awkwardness in most social situations. I mean, chatting to someone is still very different to public speaking. But I guess the thing for me to remember – at least in this week’s situation – is that I know my subject matter and I’m just sharing things I know.

Also, that I’m lucky enough to have a roof over my head and a comfy bed so I can go home and recharge after all that effing talking. 😛

Just Feb 14 things

I’ve never been much into Valentine’s Day. Maybe because I’m a perennial spinster at this point. Which is not a bad thing – I fully intend to rock some silver pigtails like an ageing Wednesday Addams someday.

But I will happily take your heart-shaped chocolates. Or any shaped chocolates. Mama don’t discriminate. 😉

No V-Day celebrations for me though. I just had an ordinary day at work. Busy and okay. Chocolate-less apart from my morning mocha.

February 14 is also the Australian Library and Information Association’s Library Lovers’ Day. Since working in academic and special libraries, I haven’t really celebrated it, other than to pop into local public libraries to see what displays they’ve got. “Blind date with a book” is always a winner.

Just get a library card, folks. It’s a great gift to yourself. Once you get the card, you don’t even need to physically enter the building if you don’t want to because, hello, eResources.

You can read up on interesting tidbits like how Captain Cook was stabbed to death after attempting to kidnap the ruling chief of Hawai’i. On February 14, 1779.

Or that YouTube was launched on February 14, 2005. Unfortunately too late to save me from horrendously cutting my hair. These days I could just search “how to cut your own emo fringe” but alas, not in the 90s and early 2000s.

I guess what I’m saying is February 14 is a lot of things, and means a lot of different things, and also nothing at all.

Probably didn’t warrant a whole-ass blog post but if you’re down here, you still read it. 😛

PS. 9 years ago, I wrote The History of February 14, a flash fiction story for Every Day Fiction. It’s not necessarily something I’d write now… I penned a whole bunch of second person stories around that time because I was trying too hard to be edgy or something… but this was probably one of the better ones. You can check it out on the Every Day Fiction website and let me know what you think.

Hypnotist Matt Hale: Top Fun 80s Spectacular review on Perth Walkabout

Fun fact about me: I’ve watched Top Gun once in my life and didn’t care for it. But somewhere in the dusty depths of my CD collection is the Top Gun movie soundtrack — and that was definitely played multiple times after I got it. There are some quintessentially 80s sounds on there, and I just love that crazy-ass decade of music.

But back to the point. Comedy hypnotist Matt Hale’s latest contribution to Fringe World is an 80s-themed show that I just so happened to check out this week. 🙂

Read my review of Top Fun! 80s Hypnosis Spectacular on Perth Walkabout.

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