Day 302: Progress Vs. Burnout

The line between making a personal and professional choice in Washington is often a blurred one.

Many people here live to work, not the other way around. They do this because many people here love their work, and the perks it brings. There’s a lot of money and power to grab in this town. Play your cards right and Washington will fatten your ego and your wallet.

For some of us, we will all have a moment when we must make a decision between ourselves and others in terms of how we allocate our time. In other words, our careers vs. our families. I’ve written about this before, how I was as career driven as they came after college, then was mellowed and molded by my wife’s amazing influence. An amazing essay today by former Wall Street Journal journalist Thomas Ricks made me revisit the topic in a different light.

Ricks wrote about how much he enjoyed the environment in Washington, watching the hustle, bustle, hustlers and power players play politics. After two decades on the beat, he was burned out and disillusioned. The War in Iraq had shaken his belief in the soundness of our national policies and left him yearning to leave the city. Eventually he and his wife relocated to Maine, where they absolutely love it. They have tranquility after years of personal stress and being surrounded by stress.

I’m starting to wonder if I want that tranquility myself. I’m beginning to feel a strong urge to leave the Beltway, to move somewhere where the pace is a bit slower and the price of living a bit lower. Where I might be able to own some more land, or at least a house with more than one bathroom.

I’m beginning to feel a bit of burnout myself and I don’t want it to throw sand on my passion for helping people. After six years of unemployment, political campaigns and graduate school, it’s been a non-stop grind. I don’t go out, I rarely take time off, even on  weekends. I work. I work to get myself in a position to make a difference because I don’t ever want to stop fighting for what I believe in. It bothers me greatly that I haven’t been able to put as much time into political action as I have wanted this year, though having a daughter has been wonderful and being her father is my top priority.

I feel this way because disillusionment came early for me and many others in my generation. I distinctly remember September 2008 as a sophomore in college watching the news and reading about how the stock market and economy were crumbling to the ground, one last floating turd of a gift for my generation from the Bush administration. It made me realize that there are very few people, even those who seem well intentioned at the surface, who are genuinely looking out for the best interests of society.

I’ll never have the brilliant foresight of someone like Carl Sagan or Rage Against The Machine. But I will have a sober sense of reading motivation and a desire to do the best I can for others. And whatever road that leads me down, I’ve made the choice to follow it.


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