One time I was supposed to go to a conference two days after the most agonizing exam of my math career, which came at the end of my most stressful semester to date… but instead I got my plane ticket refunded, stayed home and went to bed early so I could get up in time to catch the matinee showing of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I went to different movie theaters every day because I didn’t want to get recognized since I was pretty much the only person in the theater at that time (and because I definitely went twice on some days).
And you know what? It fixed me. I was so worn down to the point of tears a few days ago, and now I can’t wait for next semester to start.
I have never once worried about burning out in grad school, and this is why. I refuse to let myself stay broken for too long. I’m not afraid to let myself crash like the Hindenburg when all the work is done. I know the difference between exams I must pass and a conference that is a benefit but not a necessity. Do not mistake this for the destructive fire of defeat; It is the alchemical flame of rebirth, of healing, of being taken apart in order to be built into something better. I have seen how formidable the pressures of this path can be, and I do not underestimate how much worse they will be in the future, but I have taught myself to trust me to heal whatever wounds this journey can inflict. It is with decisions like the one to stay home that I teach myself to trust myself. I have seen this discipline’s ability to test me to the breaking point, and I accept that sometimes I will break. However, I also trust that when I break I will fix me. I will put myself to bed early with a mug of warm milk and a good book. I will spend my conference money taking me to my new favorite movie as I many times as I care to see it, and until I am strong again. I fully trust that I will not let myself stay broken for one minute longer than necessary. That is why I do not fear whatsoever this journey has in store for me next.