Burnout May 1, 2023 on Drew DeVault's blog

It kind of crept up on me. One day, sitting at my workstation, I stopped typing, stared blankly at the screen for a few seconds, and a switch flipped in my head.

On the night of New Year’s Eve, my backpack was stolen from me on the train from Berlin to Amsterdam, and with it about $2000 worth of equipment, clothes, and so on. A portent for the year that was to come. I generally keep my private and public lives carefully separated, but perhaps I will offer you a peek behind the curtain today.

It seems like every week or two this year, another crisis presented itself, each manageable in isolation. Some were independent events, others snowballed as the same problems escalated. Gossip at the hackerspace, my personal life put on display and mocked. A difficult break-up in February, followed by a close friend facing their own relationship’s hurtful end. Another close friend – old, grave problems, once forgotten, remembered, and found to still be causing harm. Yet another friend, struggling to deal with depression and emotional abuse at the hands of their partner. Another friendship still: lost, perhaps someday to be found again.

Dependable Drew, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, always knowing the right words to say, ready to help and proud to be there for his friends. Friends who, amidst these crises, are struggling to be there for him.

These events, set over the background of a world on fire.

One of the more difficult crises in my purview reached its crescendo one week ago, culminating in death. A selfish end for a selfish person, a person who had hurt people I love; a final, cruel cut to the wounds we were trying to heal.

I took time for myself throughout these endless weeks, looked after myself as best I could, and allowed my productivity to wane as necessary, unburdened by guilt in so doing. I marched on when I had the energy to, and made many achievements I’m proud of.

Something changed this week. I have often remarked that when you’re staring down a hard problem, one which might take years or even decades to finish, that you have two choices: give up or get to work. The years are going to pass either way. I am used to finding myself at the base of a mountain, picking up my shovel, and getting started. Equipped with this mindset, I have patiently ground down more than one mountain in my time. But this week, for the first time in my life, as I gazed upon that mountain, I felt intimidated.

I’m not sure what the purpose of this blog post is. Perhaps I’m sharing an experience that others might be able to relate to. Perhaps it’s healing in some way. Maybe it’s just indulgent.

I’m going to take the time I need to rest. I enjoy the company of wonderful colleagues at SourceHut, who have been happy to pick up some of the slack. I have established a formal group of maintainers for Hare and given them my blessing to work without seeking my approval. My projects will remain healthy as I take a leave. See you soon.

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