a personal blog for Jamey Alea

My Burnout Life: An Update

April 14, 2024 Jamey Alea 0 Comments

It’s been a long while since the last time I’ve written anything to post here. It crosses my mind occasionally how empty my website has become since I quit tech, but it never felt like the right time to post anything about it, or at least it didn’t feel like my priority. Now, it suddenly does feel like the right time, and I’ve been putting a lot of energy into trying to do what feels right, when it feels right. But now that the time has come, I’m having trouble figuring out what I want to say.

A lot has happened since then, but at the same time, not much of anything has happened. It has been a near constant struggle with my mental health. In the fall, I got really into biking, and then almost immediately that outlet was taken away by cold weather. I’ve been longing for the spring ever since, and now I’ve almost made it there. The Bills made the playoffs again and then lost again. I turned 34. I spent a little bit of time at a mental health recovery center. I quit smoking, started smoking again, and then quit again. I joined the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus. I became a regular at a coffee shop. It’s the same one I was a regular at before COVID, but it’s under new management and they changed the name. It’s the same, but different. I like it equally. I grew my hair back out, and I dyed it black. I’ve been cooking a lot; sometimes I bake bread. I’ve spent more time at the library.

Me and my bike, her name is Chell

Art has been the lifeblood keeping me going through everything. I started on a (futile) quest to learn a little bit of every artistic medium there is. Actually, I think I’d already been on this quest for a while, but I noticed it and sort of hammered and molded it into the shape of a complete thought. I took some bookbinding classes and a ceramics course, both of which I found myself to be quite good at. (And there’s something sort of exhilarating about writing in a book I made, or eating cereal or drinking coffee out of a vessel I made.) I also took a wood carving class, which I was terrible at. Making a point to try every art I can has kind of released me from the need to be good at everything I try. Of course I’m not going to be good at every medium. Being bad at something doesn’t mean I suck at art, it just means that particular thing gets added to the growing list of things I’m not good at. The list of things I am good at, of course, is growing too.

I am so freaking proud of my mug, you have no idea.

The other major part, to me, of being an artist is my relationship with my studio, WNY Book Arts Center. That, too, has changed a lot since my last update, but also not at all. I started officially working there as the Program Manager in July and had quit by November. It was a challenging, but interesting, lesson in how things don’t always play out the way you were expecting, and an opportunity that seemed like it was everything I possibly wanted instead quickly found me embroiled in non-profit politics that I was unprepared for. It ended up giving me a chance to practice being deliberate in my choices, and my decision to step down as Program Manager was a very deliberate one. WNYBAC is a place that’s extremely important and special to me, and the thought of spoiling my relationship with it was terrifying to me. I hoped that choosing to walk away when I did would preserve that relationship, and happily I was completely correct. 

Today, I feel more connected with WNYBAC than ever! Alyssa Fiumara stepped in as the new Program Manager and has been doing an excellent job. And I have continued to be involved as the new Resident Artisan Printer, working on prints and cards for the shop, and working with inks and type in the studio suits me so much better than working behind the counter. My first big piece for them was a poster commemorating the recent total eclipse, and I’m extremely proud of how it came out and the hugely positive response I’ve gotten from the community about it! It was even one of four pieces to be awarded an honorable mention at Rochester’s Flower City Arts Center member’s exhibition, which is a real honor as that show is full of so much incredible art! I feel like I’ve been growing a lot as an artist, and it feels good.

Overall, I feel like I’ve been learning something about trusting the process. (You could say that I’m in the process of learning it, ba dum tss.) When I decided to take time off, I didn’t know what to expect, but somehow it has still managed to be not what I expected. Circuitous routes have led me to new places, both literally and metaphorically. In many ways, I haven’t made as much progress with my mental health as I had hoped, but even when things feel very dark, I find myself picking up and trying again every day. And the next day. And the day after that. 

So what’s next? Well, I’m not sure, but I have some ideas. 

Art, of course, will continue to be an important part of my life, probably the most important part for the foreseeable future. I am going to a small artist retreat in Pennsylvania next week called Swift Waters, which I’m excited and nervous about in equal parts. There’s a rather prestigious book arts internship in June that I’ve applied for and am waiting anxiously to hear back about. And I’ll be continuing to teach and print at WNYBAC for as long as they’ll have me, and they’ve really made me feel like I’m an important part of the community there, so I expect that will be a good long while.

Tech still feels like a bit of a can of worms to me at this point. My plan has always been to return at some point, but my brain still feels rattled with burnout whenever I try to think about it. I also haven’t yet worked out how to balance a career in tech without compromising art as a priority in my life, which just feels right. I am hoping to attend Ruby for Good in a couple months, which will be my first tech event in almost a year, and will start to reevaluate after seeing how that goes. As I said, I’m trusting the process.

As for my website, expect to see some changes over the coming weeks and months. I don’t intend to wait so long before my next life update, but also I have some new ideas about how I want my website to be. This blog, in many ways, still feels like my “tech website” and the Fire Ecology Press page feels like my “art website” — but I’ve realized that I don’t like that distinction, and I don’t think that keeping them separate like that is a good representation of myself, so I’m planning to consolidate them into one page. I’m still figuring out exactly what I want that to look like.

If you’re still reading this, thanks for sticking with me. <3

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