After a more than 3 year break I posted a new Instructable yesterday evening: House Shaped Montessori Bed. Why the long break and why the return? Well, there’s a number of reasons, first the delays…
The biggest reason for such a delay is that in late 2015 I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer and I’ve dealt with Cancer (and am currently dealing with it) three times now with surgeries, chemotherapy, and straight up trying to recover. That took, and continues to take a huge amount of time, energy, and focus. But staying alive is definitely a priority and really beats the alternative!
Recently, I came to terms with accepting the fact that I was burned out. Obviously, the health issues played a large role in all of this, but Work was a struggle and I found that writing, building projects, and taking photos around all that just seemed like more “Work” and wasn’t fun anymore. Anytime I worked on something and didn’t document it I felt like I was “cheating” or it was wasted time, but the thought and feelings around doing all that seemed overwhelming or terrible, so much so that it was insurmountable and I wouldn’t even start working on something. Part of recovering from Burnout for me was first acknowledging the problem, that really helped me in the recovery process.
A New Baby!
We had a child in 2018 and my daughter is fantastic! She takes up a lot of time for my wife and I, so that leaves less time for other stuff, but my time with her is so much fun! And my projects now seem to be things for her which is great.
This one is tough to explain and I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. Chemo changes things in your body, and for me it changed the way I thought and could “see” problems or the big picture of things. The closest I could come up with to explain it, is that it was like standing in front of a blackboard with a project mapped out, but you are standing too close, so you can see the details of various aspects but it’s very difficult to see the whole picture. I struggled with this for a few years, I had to learn to recognize this difficulty and compensate for it. My body eventually “fixed” itself, after a difficult surgery and treatment, I was on some various meds and unable to sleep for a few days while in the ICU, I started daytime hallucinating and finally on day three it was like winding up a rubber band. It finally “snapped” and it was like I was taking two steps back from that blackboard, I could finally see the big picture again, combined with the techniques I had learned to compensate for this, it was like a laser focus and I was very much hyperaware when working on a project now.
All these things contributed to a long break, I didn’t write, projects got shelved, half completed, the workshop gathered dust. Things eventually changed and now I’m getting back in to working on more projects, creating, and documenting. The positive factors that contributed to the return…
Recovering from Burnout
Once I admitted to myself that I was burned out, then that’s when I felt my recovery began, it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could start to make changes and really took a closer look at the underlying reasons for why I wasn’t finding joy in the work anymore. I could then take steps to change it.
Inspired by New Friends and Family
I did a trip this past summer with a group of Cancer survivors as part of an organization called First Descents (they do free adventure trips for young people affected by Cancer), on it I had a wonderful time, did some cool stuff, and of course met some absolutely amazing people. Those people had the biggest impact during my trip, I saw what they were doing, the obstacles and struggles they were overcoming and it inspired me to get back to making. The same thing with old friends and family, I had more honest conversations with them around “producing content” and the struggles of burnout and we just sort of motivated and leaned on each other to set goals or take the next step with our work.
I got a new camera this summer, I still have my Nikon D700 but I purchased a Nikon Z 7 Mirrorless camera, since it had been 10 years the new camera came with a whole bunch of “new” features. “New” as in the existed for years but were “new” to me, one of these was the ability to shoot video, my D700 doesn’t have that option and this “new” medium just opened up the possibilities and with the joy of tinkering coming back, I started shooting video and spending more time both behind and in front of the lens.
Another struggle I had was that for some reason I had got it in my head that everything had to be perfect. It was almost like a form of Imposter Syndrome, perfect photos, a perfect project, everything goes according to plan each and every time. Obviously, life doesn’t work that way and once I sort of accepted that, things got easier, and I find it’s way more fun that way. I like the projects where things change or there is some unexpected obstacle to overcome, the journey became more enjoyable then the destination, and I think I’d like to focus more on these things moving forward. And it allowed me to relax and get back to the fun of it all. I don’t have to have deadlines and things are going to take longer than I plan. I also have zero expectations moving forward, there’s no quotas or strict goals (there’s some loose goals), and this may be the last I write for awhile (or ever), priorities and plans can change so I’m trying to enjoy the process and being present more and if I move on to other things then at least I had fun for while it lasted.
Which sort of blends with this last one, which is a bit of a weird one, but dealing with cancer the third time and my experiences with First Descents, I started thinking more about my mortality and what I want my legacy to be and how my daughter to remember me if I were to lose my battle with Cancer. I thought about the unfinished projects, the joy I had in making, and made the concession decision of “these are the things that excited me, challenged me, and gave me joy with life” and these are things I want to do and need to hold on to when life gets tough.
This post turned into something COMPLETELY different then what I started out to write, and I’m ok with that. One of the reasons I went back to specifically writing Instructables, was I remembered the satisfaction of wrapping it all up and the level of focus and “enhancement” it brought to my work. By pausing and looking back on a project it allowed me to appreciate certain elements or even the whole journey itself. Rather than right away moving on to the next thing, I felt that writing about the project made me go back and tighten up a few things, maybe a picture wasn’t as great, or a diagram was not 100% complete, writing an instructable helps steer that and gives me with a sense of completion while making my projects a little bit better without feeling too much like an “exercise” or work.
That’s that, some struggles that I’m still working through, but learning to accept all that as who I am and part of the journey rather than fighting against it and feeling stressed or overwhelmed. ‘Till next time, whenever that may be.