Ok, I think I might be in a slightly abusive relationship with my job. Let me explain.
Imagine you’re in a relationship with someone. When it’s going good, it’s going great. They make you so happy, you look at them smile and your heart just swells with joy. They’re not always like this, but you know exactly how you can make them happy.
If you give them all your attention, if you buy them their favourite (expensive) food, if you spend all day getting creative about just how to design the perfect date with all their favourite things to do, you can bask in their joy. You’re in heaven. Maybe a tad tired and overworked and maybe you’ve let yourself go a little, but that’s fine. You sacrifice some pleasures for others and their happiness is just beautiful to witness. You’re being selfless, this is great. There’s nothing wrong with this. No, seriously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this: you want to do it, that’s why you’re doing it. It’s all fine.
Ok, but what if you suddenly stopped a little? What if you gave them 80% attention and affection instead of the constant stream of 100%. There’s a part of you that doesn’t want to admit it, but you kind of know… they’d probably leave. I’ll safely assume most of us would say this is an unhealthy, unsustainable relationship. It should end sooner than later.
I think this is what I’ve done with YouTube.
I finally figured out what it takes to make some videos good and I sold my soul. Scripting, editing, research, pacing, passion - it’s all great, I mean I loved doing it, but in the back of mind there’s a part of me that went ‘the moment you stop giving this thing 100% of you, it’s gone’. And I’ve seen enough YouTube channels to know this is true.
Now this isn’t a pity party. ‘The videos I poured my heart and soul in are doing too well and I can’t maintain this’ (although, to be honest, I do kind of feel this way). This is more to highlight the point that I think I’ve finally reached detachment from this YouTube thing, because I’ve accepted: it just doesn’t love me back.
There’s no way this relationship with YouTube is going to be mutual. It holds all the power. I’m happy when it wants me to be (stats do well), sad when it wants me to be (stats are bad), I give it all my time and attention and it can take it all away the moment I need a break. It’s toxic.
And so I’m breaking it off. It’s not a healthy relationship, and I need better boundaries. I’ve finally managed to somewhat emotionally compartmentalise my job and holy shit, it feels so good. As someone who’s defined themselves by their performance and achievements their whole life, this has been groundbreaking.
If you’ve ever heard someone say ‘it’s just a job, why do you care so much’ and gotten all confused about how they just don’t get it, I hate to break it to you, you might have the same problem.
Knowing this relationship is toxic, knowing that it can all be gone in a minute (and probably will), and knowing that it only does well when and if I put so much work into it makes me step back a little and ask: What do I want? This job isn’t my other half (god, I hate that phrase), it’s a part of what I do and want.
I want to be a better speaker, I want to be a better editor, I want to learn new things and connect with people. Cool, YouTube is a great way to do all of that and more. There’s other ways, there’s other jobs.
I’m now picturing my life like a path, and YouTube is just a string of beautiful trees that runs along a part of it. For the last few months, I think I thought of YouTube as the path, and me being dragged along it by the hair. Not good.
Practically, nothing has changed. I still spend just as much (if not more lol) time editing and scripting, BUT my internal state has completely shifted: it’s gone quiet. The future worry, the anxiety, the stats and the numbers have just disappeared, because I know YouTube is just the worst partner and because honestly, I don’t care to emotionally invest in a relationship with it.
Let’s see how long this relief lasts, and I wish I had done this a lot sooner with all my other jobs too. When people said ‘it’s just a job’ I wish I would’ve had the patience to just listen.
A formula for emotional detachment from work:
- Are you aware that the job holds all the power in this situation? You cannot affect its state but it can affect yours?
- Are you aware that your job is probably temporary, owes you nothing, would drop you in a second?
- Beautiful: now that we’ve started to separate, let’s see what it can do for you. What skills can you get from this work?
- Focus on the joy of doing and improving on the skills themselves, rather than the fleeting outcomes of the job itself.
- Rinse and repeat as necessary.