For the past three years I’ve found myself incredibly lucky: for the first time, I’m happy to go to classes because what I’m learning, what I do for coursework is a passion of mine. I like programming, I love learning about computer architecture, I enjoy cryptography (nerd).
I’ve always thought that it could be the best thing to happen to anyone. Not worrying about going to work everyday, because you know you’re going to love it. Of course, it can only a blessing, right?
Not quite. Because when your work (or in my case, your degree) is your passion, it becomes very easy to skip boundaries. When I come home after spending ten hours on programming coursework, I cook dinner, watch a TV Show, and then do some more programming. Because I love it. Maybe it’s a function I couldn’t quite figure out earlier in the day, maybe it’s some other piece of coursework for which I just thought of a solution. The thing is, I never stop. That was a great thing last year, when it let me finish my coursework early and gave me margin to polish things. It was great last semester when I finished a networking paper early and had time for the rest of my coursework.
The problem is, I never stop. I’ve spent all day, every weekday at University this semester. Not because I had to, but because I didn’t mind. Because I love it, work doesn’t feel like work, so I don’t stop. I’ll just keep on going, not realising that it’s eating at me slowly. Except when deadline time came around, I was burnt out. Without warning, I’d reached a point where I couldn’t work anymore, because my brain had just given up, and I had not time left to rest. I’ve spent the past five weeks working all day, seven days a week and yet I feel like I’ve barely made progress.
I’ll be fine. Deadlines are almost over, I survived and I’ll submit everything in time, but I’m drained. I’m completely burnt out (figuratively — I don’t know if the medical term applies). I still love computing, but I feel like I could sleep for a month straight and I’d still wake up tired.
That wall of text feels like whining, and it might not be useful to many. But if it can help one person I’ll be happy. If you love your job, if your degree is your passion, be careful to not ruin it. Because even if it doesn’t feel like work, it is. So while you still have time for it, take a break. Play a game, go for a walk, learn to play an instrument. Don’t wait until you don’t have time for rest to realise you need it badly.