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Burnout: Why Can’t You Just Stick It Out?

Madeline Miller studied early education at Montgomery Community College before transitioning to Kutztown University to study psychology. Now she wants to go back to earn her masters in English. Why not just stick it out? How bad could a job in the flourishing psychology field be? Miller’s job is as a case worker in social work. A demanding and stressful job takes a toll on you emotionally. Experiencing this has caused burn out. Relying on families to trust you and watching them sabotage themselves in a cycle leaves you feeling responsible as you are their case worker. Many people are dependent on you and rely on you to achieve things in a timely manner for them. Watching them sometimes sabotage hard-earned progress makes you feel responsible. They depend on you. The truth is, who would want to stick this out?

Miller started out with the goal of working in a school setting, hence the early education major. Working with children is a specialty of hers, as she was my mom’s go-to babysitter. While studying, she took an intro to psychology course that completely changed her outlook on it. Despite having taken a psychology course in high school, she never took an interest in it. She believes this is due to the teaching style of the professor. It was at this point in her academic career that she had finally discovered her learning style as an auditory learner. A professor can teach a subject a student enjoys but if the learning style is not catered to, little progress or engagement will be found. With this newfound interest, she changed her major to psychology. She figured she would still be able to work in a school setting as a guidance counselor with the degree.

Once Miller graduated, she had no clue what to do job-wise. She jumped at the first opportunity she was given to work. In this intermediary period, she worked as a grocer and a daycare worker. After a series of discussions with our cousin, Ana, she entered the field of social work. Her initial role was to monitor families after their cases were completed for three months. She stated the job was pretty much being an uncertified therapist. Despite this, she enjoyed the job and the families she worked with. The next step in her career was as a case manager. This is where the spark of burnout began for her. Miller went from enjoying the families she worked with to constantly stressing about them. Watching sabotage and mistakes repeatedly is emotionally draining. The court system did not help the pressure. It is a daunting and scary aspect of the job. Especially with the lack of cooperation, understanding, and flaws within it. Miller credits her agency supervisor and coworkers for giving her the support system she needs as she goes about this work. She felt comfortable opening up about the stressors she was experiencing with them. The final straw came when she started to wake up thinking she didn’t want to do it anymore or that she didn’t care anymore. The worst mindset you could have in the field of social work. The thought: “Why can’t you just stick it out?” remained.

Miller has begun to consider a new path in her life, citing her youth and willingness to learn. She has always enjoyed the subject of English. Her goal for the future has become getting a certification in secondary education and earning her masters in English to teach as a middle school or high school teacher. She wants to change her students’ attitudes toward reading as a teacher; she wants to take someone who dislikes reading and turn them into someone who enjoys it. She would intertwine her degree in psychology and utilize her knowledge of learning styles to accommodate students in the way she wished she could have been. Not all students learn the same, which is a hard aspect for a teacher to be flexible with.

Many go to school thinking the job they have in mind after college will be perfect. Students spend so much time and money earning their degrees. The lack of discussion on burnout makes everyone who experiences it feel as if they made the worst decision of their life but can’t fix it. Our parents and older generations around us often fuel this narrative. Many older adults will stay in jobs that make them miserable and suck it up. They lash out at any college student who expresses burnout, regret, or rethinking their decision. I’m sure all of you have heard the classic, “What do you plan to do with that degree?” Not out of curiosity, of course, but out of shock, you would want to pursue it as a career. A focus on “hustle” culture adds to this feeling of isolation. You have to make money, be your own boss, and look cute doing it. Miller stated this when asked about her burnout and the consideration of going back to college. “I might never find that and that’s okay because for me, my job is not the most important thing to me. I hope to find something that will make me excited to go to work every day. If I do not, I will be okay. There are other things in life that make me happy.” Work is a big aspect of life, but it is not the only aspect of life.

Hello, I'm Grace! I'm a student at William Paterson University. I write for Her Campus and for my own personal enjoyment. When I'm not writing, I'm busy being a dedicated swiftie and history nerd.