Stage One: The Lull

It’s fine for the first couple of days. You feel like you’re on an extended weekend: no extra obligations in the evening, no emails to write outside of work hours, no double-checking your schedule to make sure you aren’t missing a Zoom call. You pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, call a friend you haven’t talked to in a few months.

But then your inbox stays dead. Your calendar remains open. You start to feel uneasy: was there something you forgot to write down? A promise you made that completely slipped your mind? Shouldn’t you not have this much free time?

You realize you’re in the lull.

Stage Two: The Opportunity Show

You remember that [the committee had finished its work] [you graduated from that horrible class] [you stopped going to that book club] [you moved to a different church] [you got someone else to take over your volunteer position]. You try to settle, telling yourself that it’s nice to have a bit of a breather. Your other three long-term commitments are still happening, and you can use this time to do things like actually get out of your house or do what everyone says to do in your twenties—travel.

Then you get an email: “Hey, I think you’d be really good for this [volunteer position for an organization]. Are you interested?”

You go to church: “Is anyone interested in learning how to run PowerPoint? We’re looking for more volunteers.”

You open a text from a friend: “Are you free in x months? I’m running this event and I need your help.”

You pick up a hobby: “What do you think about maybe taking a leadership role here?”

Stage Three: Delusion

You know that currently you have the time. You’re just sitting at home, eating popcorn and scrolling endlessly through social media. These people need someone; why not you?

Sure, your job is a lot of work, but it’s not a lot of work right now. Sure, you have other obligations, but you’re handling those just fine. Sure, you kind of like having the free time, but also doesn’t it feel a little bad? To not be productive all the time? Don’t you feel a little guilty, like you owe the universe a little bit?

Sure, you know you’re going to regret this, but you open that email, text back, talk to that person, and you say: yes.

Stage Four: The Juggling

You go to the first committee meeting, you get connected onto the platform where you’ll be doing your volunteering—you begin your duties. It’s fun, right? You are meeting new people, you’re helping other people, you’re using your time well! You feel that thrill of starting something new—the ideas on how to do better churn in your head.

You spend a little less time at home, but that’s okay. Your weekly phone call with a long distance friend turns into biweekly, but your friend is pretty busy too. You miss having a night or two to yourself, but you still have Thursday to bum around on your couch. It’s all good. You can do this.

Stage Five: The World is Burning and I am Dying

A few months in, you wonder why you are avoiding your personal email inbox. You swipe away important emails, leaving them unread. You forget about meetings. Your job is back in full force, and you’ve forgotten how much time it takes to answer emails, prep lessons, talk to colleagues, let alone trying to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and improving yourself professionally.

You start to falter: you send apology texts, promising to send out that email tomorrow. You phone in a lesson or two; you sleep through the start of work and log in late. You stop being the eager beaver in meetings and start rolling your eyes, not volunteering for extra tasks. You remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup, that it’s better to whole-ass one thing rather than half-ass two things, and yet you find yourself half-assing five things.

You get a Zoom call and bemoan how tired you are, and a friend goes, “Ah. You’re at the bottom of the perfectionist cycle.”

You’re not sure you’re a perfectionist, but her words ring in your ears. How did you end up getting yourself in this position of overcommitment again?

Stage Six: The Departure

The school year ends, and you decline to come back to that committee. You decide to focus on leading worship at church and let other people teach the children’s lessons. You find someone else to help put on events for this organization. You stop going to extra job things outside of work hours. You tell your friends online that you are stepping away, taking a bit of a break.

You breathe. The next event on your calendar is in three days. You find a new recipe and put the ingredients on your grocery list. You put on that movie that came out a year ago but you never got around to seeing.

It’s fine for the first couple of days.


  1. Katie VZ

    Rude of you to write this piece about me, Alex. (Solidarity.)

  2. Josh Parks

    Um all I have to say is ahhhhhhhh


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