Year 2, Week 15: The burnout
Published on Thursday, April 13, 2017 By Max Sparber
I have studied Yiddish for 439 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 277 hours
I have reviewed 4,876 individual flashcards
I added no new flashcards this past week. Usually it's the last thing I do at the end of the day, just before I go to bed, but I would reach the end of the day, exhausted, and just not have the energy to plug in 15 new cards.
I know that some of it is that daylight saving time has thrown me for a real loop this year, worse than I remember. I wake exhausted and go through my day that way, fighting sleep at work, and slipping into naps on the bus on the way to and from my job. I will study my flashcards for a while and then feeling my eyes cross and have to sleep for 10 minutes, 15 minutes before I can focus again.
It also doesn't help that I gave up sugary food and caffeine recently. I had to. I am somewhat overweight, have a slight genetic propensity for diabetes, and a biological grandfather who died from the disease. The sugar also kept me on a constant, unpleasant rollercoaster of rising and falling blood sugar, which kept me snacking constantly.
With the sudden drop in caloric intake, my body has probably already run through whatever reserves of glucose it had, and so now I'm ending my day in a deficit. You want this if you want to lose weight, but, boy, by 11 p.m. I am ready to just crawl into bed and be done with the day.
But there is something else going on. It's burnout.
I was in the Lynn-Lake neighborhood of Minneapolis a few days ago and I passed a store there, Schatzlein Saddle Shop, which sells saddled and tack and also a selection of cowboy clothes.
I had wandered into the store years ago, curious about it, and was struck by a red cowboy shirt emblazoned with musical notes. After resisting for a few days, I bought the shirt, and quickly turned into the sort of person who would wear that shirt. I taught myself cowboy songs on ukulele, and taught myself to yodel, and taught myself how to spin a pistol. I even had my own little cowboy show in Omaha for a while.
I missed it. I still listen to country music quite often, and watch cowboy movies now and then, but it was a lot of fun turning myself into a singing cowboy.
There are few things in my life that I sometimes throw myself into, just for the fun of it. I am awful fond of the poppier aspects of mid-20th century horror films — I wrote about horror-themed novelty music for quite a long time, and really enjoyed that.
I found myself thinking about these things. And I found myself missing the fun. Should I dress in cowboy clothes once per week and go to western bars? Should I secretly start a blog about cowboy horror films? What could I do to get the fun back?
And then I realized I was not having fun with the Yiddish project.
Now, this was a momentary thought, and it's not especially true. I had a blast in New York doing various Jewish activities. But, for whatever reason, at that moment, I was ready to drop the Yiddish project. I wasn't sure where I was headed with it. I felt like maybe it had run its course.
I may have just packed too much into too short a time and need to pare back a little. I may also just be tired, and have been sick, and may be struggling with a lack of sugar and caffeine. The next day, I felt better.
But the fact that I have stopped adding new words indicated to me that I'm not getting anything out of that anymore. And of course I am not.
It's an awful lot of work, memorizing words and phrases. It's also tremendously frustrating, as you just keep forgetting what you have learned and must reteach yourself the same information over and over.
And so I am struggling to learn a massive amount of information that, at the moment, I have no practical use for. And because my grammar is so terrible, I can barely use it to put together a sentence to have a conversation with myself.
Nonetheless, I have continued studying my flashcards unabated, which means my burnout isn't so bad that I want to just take a break from it altogether. And thank goodness -- those are the sorts of breaks that people often don't come back from.
It may not help that I work full-time at a Jewish newspaper, which means that I am interact constantly with Jewish content. I may simply have over-Jewed myself a little.
But I think I have reached a moment where I need to come up with a practical application for the Yiddish I have been studying. In the meanwhile, I need to figure out a way to make the flashcards fun again.
Knowing me, it will be something very silly. Maybe something about cowboys.
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