Adulting Burnout

“The modern Millennial, for the most part, views adulthood as a series of actions, as opposed to a state of being,” an article in Elite Daily explains. “Adulting therefore becomes a verb.” “To adult” is to complete your to-do list — but everything goes on the list, and the list never ends.  

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance.  

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

Anne Helen Petersen writing in BuzzFeed News

driven to obligation

When we are locked into imperative thinking, we hold our absolute conviction so tightly that we have little or no recognition of our choice to say no! Obligation becomes our driving force. Relationships with other people and our responsibilities to them then become matters of dread, resentment, guilt.

Our need for a structured, orderly life can be so powerful that we refuse to make allowances for choices. To us, circumstances are either black or white. Once we settle upon a conviction or preference, we feel rigidly obligated to abide by it, with little variation.

Imperative people are almost afraid to allow for the luxury of choices. We feel the need to minimize our risks by sticking to the rules that we have made for ourselves.

Les Carter, Imperative People: Those Who Must Be in Control