Can one experience stress or even burnout from boredom and loneliness and feelings of purposelessness? No, it’s not even purposelessness. I do see the purpose sometimes. I just hate what I do on a day-to-day basis. It’s not me; it’s not the work I’m personally wired for. Actually, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing how purposeful what we’re doing actually is. I say “we” because my team, working on anti-corruption in schools is the only organization in Mozambique (that we know of) attempting to tackle the problem at a classroom level. I could write a completely separate post – which I really do mean to – about all the exciting things we’re doing and some things we see happening in schools.
But it’s a battle to go into work everyday knowing that I’m going to be sitting at a desk all day. For most of the last eight years, I’ve been teaching. Teaching suits me well because I’m constantly interacting with people, I’m moving around, I’m multi-tasking, I’m accomplishing little tasks all day long, and I see regular progress. Teaching first grade may not have been intellectually stimulating in the way that research is, but it challenged me in a more creative, interpersonal way.
Recently I spoke to a teacher from the States who is here visiting a friend of mine for three months. I asked her what she’s been doing to keep herself busy. She said she’s been working with a mute boy, teaching him numbers and how to write some words so that he can express himself better. She’s also been writing English lessons for an English class our mutual friend started at her church. Plus she’s writing a play to direct at a girls’ orphanage. These activities resonate with me! I feel like she’s done more in the two months she’s been here than I’ve done in the nearly six I’ve been here. What have I done in six months? I’ve conducted one set of community surveys and am now analyzing the data. Seriously, that’s how I’ve spent my six months?!
I see my colleagues work hard. They are driven and passionate about what they do on a day-to-day basis. I’m not. I feel like a complete slacker. And many days I am because I just can’t bear the thought of a day full of research. They take work home, and when they go on holiday it’s well-deserved. I have none of that stress in my life. I long for that stress actually. I long for busyness and feeling like I’ve got full and varied days ahead of me.