The Icarus of Climate Action

By Lily Barraclough

A couple months ago, as once again I took on too much in the hopes of maybe feeling like I was chipping off any substantial amount of the boulder that is climate change, one of my best friends said to me: “I feel like I have to physically prevent you from taking on more leadership roles in climate organizations because you’re attracted to them like a moth is to fire”. Right after I had found myself trapped in the position of co-president of an environmental society I didn’t want to be a part of in the first place, but I just couldn’t let it fail. I couldn’t see my school that I love so much not have an environmental group, and because I didn’t see anyone else stepping up, though I had no time, no energy, and very little hope that we could actually do anything I said yes to it.

It is so difficult to say no to something that could possibly lessen the negative impact that I, and my community, have on our beautiful planet, and in that moment, that moment where I said yes, I did feel like it was possible, like I could take it on and make King’s the environmental conscious and sustainable place I wanted it to be. That moment of feeling like it was doable on top of my already overcommitted schedule lasted for all of a few minutes. I feel like Icarus, flying too close to the sun, too close to burnout even though everyone has been warning me for years, for really the majority of my teenage and adult years that if I don’t stop committing to too much I will burn out. Burn off those wings and fall, deep, deep into the depths of burnout. And there are days when I can see that, when I am low in energy and can barely get out of bed, and I think that I should’ve listened to my grade eight teacher who wrote in my yearbook when I graduated that I should “remember to stop and smell the roses”, I should’ve listened to all those people who have told me “you can’t do everything” , and I should’ve listened to my own tears all those days in high-school I ended up in the office in tears because I was overdone, and that feeling of dread I get when I realize I don’t have any free time. I don’t even have time to do laundry.

There is a conundrum with being an involved person, an overcommitted person. Once people realize that you’re dedicated and involved, once they realize if they give you a task that you will do it, they keep asking you for everything, and then you wake up and realize that your to-do list is endlessly long and that you don’t have any time in your day to even touch it. You wake up and you realize that though people think the work you’re doing is amazing, and if you think rationally, you know that you should be happy doing it and that it is making an impact, but you’re miserable. You are doing the work because you feel like you have to, because you feel like no one will do that work if you don’t do it. You are no longer doing the work from a place of excitement and love, and you begin to resent people who seem happy to be doing the work, who have hope and excitement because it has been so long since you felt that.

But,

Then you have a moment of reprieve from the death you feel inside from your endless commitments, and you see an exciting new initiative, and you have an inkling of hope that it could do something, and you feel that you must be a part of it, so you take too much on again. You might have one win, one step forward, one new exciting development, and you are overjoyed, because really you had no hope at all that the work you tirelessly put effort into would ever make an impact. Hold on to that joy, because it is difficult to come by, and it is what keeps you going. Through all of the tough times.

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