Monday, September 3, 2012

Burn Out

No Dragon*Con… but I’ve had a couple of rather lazy self-indulgent days spent almost entirely in my hammock reading, writing, petting the bio-dogs, watching deer come and go from the pond, and streaming Pandora.

So… I had mentioned in my last post that I enjoyed the Atlanta Dominion party last month.  Picking up on that (and tentatively related to my theme of being lazy and self-indulgent) there was something that came-up while I was at Dominion that prompted some thoughts which I figured I would share here.  Tebow mentioned that he was feeling the rut of “we volunteer at everything so we never just go play” (or something to that effect).  Putting aside the fact that we expect such whining from Tebow  :-P  I can certainly sympathize w/ this one having been there and felt that.  So here are some general thoughts for pups, Handlers, Tops, bottoms, Masters, and slaves for avoiding the burn-out trap.

First, for the new peeps and pups coming into the scene (and I guess by “new” I here mean less than 4 or 5 years active in the lifestyle), you need to acknowledge that there is some legitimate expectation to “pay your dues.”  I volunteered at CAPEX almost every month for many years, have been on the volunteer staff of several other events (including Fantasm and Frolicon), and served on the CAPEX Board four times.  Now, I still frequently will help out in some small way or another when I go to an event – and I don’t mind doing so – but the fact is that my dues have been paid, and if I decided to go to an event and not lift a finger (unless my Owner or the Alpha Pup tell me to) then I’m not going to feel too bad about that.  This is a community that runs on new blood.  If we don’t have a steady stream of new folks coming in and picking up the work load then the community won’t survive.  That’s just how it is.

Now, there’s another side of this coin:  For us old peeps and pups (which I suppose means being active for 6 years or longer), we need to learn to back off and let the newbies get involved… and not breath down their necks and try and armchair quarterback them.  Here’s one of life’s simple rules: Don’t give advise unless your asked… and when asked, keep it brief.  Nobody likes a know-it-all… even if they really do know it all.  And here’s some more unsolicited advice for you:
  • The way you did it is not the only way to do it… nor even the right way to do it.
  • Yes, the newbies will screw some stuff up.  Let them.  That’s how they learn.  It’s not the end of the world, folks.
  • There will be community drama; don’t feel like you always need to get into it.  It’s okay to not give a shit.  (Now, there’s a flip-side to this one is: Sometimes it’s not “drama” – sometimes it’s serious.  We do have some genuine predatory monsters in our community, and against them I feel like the “elders” have a responsibility to take a stand.)
Now… by saying that newer folks need to “pay their dues” I don’t mean that they need to volunteer at every damn event.  As they say, when your hobby starts to feel like a job, then you’re doing something wrong.  For many years, I watched people burn themselves out by volunteering at every single event – often month after month.  I’ve been on the alert to avoid that myself.  I’ve always said, “I don’t want to become _____.   I really liked _____, but he (or she) never comes around anymore b/c he worked himself to a nub, got burnt-out, and left.”  Know your limits, and know when you need to take a break before it’s too late.  A couple of years ago I resigned from the Board of CAPEX just a few months after I was elected, partly b/c I realized that I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing – it wasn’t fun at all.  (There were other factors, but that was a part of it.)  If I kept at it, I knew I was just going to grow to resent the club and the community, so I resigned and went back to just having fun.  It’s all about balance.

These days I rarely do much CAPEX volunteering.  Sure I still might carry some equipment from the truck or stack-up chairs or something.  Hang signs.  I don’t mind.  But my Owner has told I’m to stop helping out and just go have fun for a while.  (Sometimes service-oriented puppies need their Owners to tell them to stop.)  (And sometimes Owners need their pups to let them know, “I’m starting to feel burnt out; is it okay if I don’t volunteer at this particular event, but just go play?”)

Another trick that has helped us, is that Ma’am and I will talk before an event about expectations.  Are we going to volunteer?  Are we going to just hang-out or are we going to play together.  Will she just put me in pup mode and let me play at her feet… or is she going to beat the hell out of me?  Sometimes it’s important to talk beforehand and get on the same page as far as expectations.  In the past we had some let-downs because we’d go to an event w/ her thinking we were going to do a heavy pain scene and me thinking we were just going to hang and chat… or visa-versa.  I remember one party where I wanted to pup-out, but all I communicated to Ma’am was that I wasn’t up for a heavy pain scene.  She took that to mean that I wanted to be left alone to chat w/ folks, so she proceeded to ignore me the rest of the night.  Mia culpa.  So, yes, all that jazz you hear about communication – make it honest, and make it clear – is true.

Glancing back over this, I realize that just about everything I said, I tuned-around and contradicted it.  But that’s kind of the point.  Balance.  Finding the happy medium.

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