I don’t know about you, but 2012 has been a long year. I feel like it’s swallowed me whole and then hoiked me up, and I’m lying here like a giant wet hairball with bits of chewed up grass.
The fact that you’re even reading this piece is a miracle, since it’s evidence that for once I actually managed to start something and finish it. It scares me, this gaping chasm between what I think I can do, and what I actually have the energy to get done. How many really good ideas never see the light of day because the person who came up with them was too tired to follow through?
That’s the real energy crisis. Not the fact that we’re running out of oil or we use too much coal — though we do — but the fact that we’re all just too damn tired all the time to get even a fraction of what needs to get done, done.
All of us have different reasons for being tired. I’m single and childless and self-employed, so the demands on my energy are different from the ones that affect most women my age. In my case, it’s the challenges of being alone. As we all know, people can be draining; office politics can sap you of your will to live. But this year I’ve become very aware of just how incredibly tiring it is to work on your own. And not just any work, but the kind that requires lots of creative energy to generate stuff you’re not sure anyone actually needs or wants.
In January, I quit my job to pursue my own interests, as the announcements from HR always put it so tactfully. I can say that no matter how many times I failed this year — and I failed more than I succeeded — at least I did stuff. I didn’t wait for a brief. I went out there and made things happen, and some of it actually did some good.
But I’m tired. Incredibly tired. I don’t have a lot of self-belief in stock at the best of times, and this has required huge amounts of it. Do others who freelance or have their own businesses battle with self-doubt in this way? I am fortunate enough to have friends and family who care and who are on my side — even a CEO who gives me lectures when I need them — but when you work alone, you’re on your own and there’s no getting around that. Nowhere to pass the buck, no substitutes to step in and pick up the pieces, nobody to fail or succeed alongside you.
It’s lonely and exhausting and I’ve lost count of the number of times I came close to burnout. (Bit ironic, yes.)
My projects planned for next year are a mixture of things I’m largely responsible for and ventures that involve working with partners, something I’m both relieved by — finally, it’s not just me — and anxious about. But right now I’m not thinking too much about what’s next, because even contemplating 2013 makes me want to crawl into bed and sleep for a very long time.
We have to keep going, though. So here’s to recharged batteries. Here’s to self-belief. Here’s to solving our energy crisis, and getting the important stuff done.