I've been super tired during the spring. Again. I could write a blog post about how disappointed I am that I've let myself into this situation - again. But this blog post is not about it. It's about how I got further away from that edge and started finding myself - and the spark - again.
So, to give some context: About eight months ago, I wrote a blog post about my first month as an accessibility specialist at Oura. At that point, I was still in the honeymoon phase, and the realities of being the first-ever accessibility specialist in the company weren't apparent.
You see, being the first in any role, especially in a role whose goal is purely to change existing things, is not easy. If there are any miscommunications about the position, it makes it even harder. And if you don't know what's expected of you, well, that's certainly a risk for burnout.
I should have known better - hey, I've been here before, and I know I'm more at risk because of my brain injury than someone else without the same history.
I realized I'd lost my spark. Not just for the work but also for anything outside the job. I used to love sharing what I've learned, but writing and submitting proposals for conferences didn't feel good. I thought, "What's the point? Nothing's going to change anyway".
Now that I'm in a better position, I'm a bit sad because I missed some conference applying deadlines I had been waiting for for a long time. For example, I didn't submit a proposal to Inclusive Design 24 - I just didn't have the energy.
I'm better now. But it took some time, conversations, and challenging moments before I could be honest about the situation. And again, I could use the word "again." I've been here before.
I tried to raise the problems throughout the spring. I think it was a short sickness leave that made the people at the company understand that this is pretty serious.
After that, we had multiple conversations about my role. I understood some miscommunications about my position. I had a pretty different idea of the role than it actually was.
Understanding what was expected of me and the whole situation better helped me. Furthermore, having some time off out in the sea helped. (I spent time sailing and kayaking. Finnish nature is amazing.)
I also read two blog posts that made me think a lot about my relationship with accessibility. I'll share my thoughts about them next.
Working in a company, which is not very mature when it comes to accessibility, needs a specific type of attitude. Even though I knew that I couldn't (or can't) change everything instantly, I think I still had this idea of being able to change some visible things and doing it fast. And that was definitely a contributor to me being on the edge of burnout.
And I felt (and still feel) like I have responsibility. I'm the company's first (and the only) accessibility specialist, so I think I should be able to do something visible. To change something. Like how we don't add alternative texts to tweets, even the most important ones.
Meryl Evans has been talking about progress over perfection - and in her blog post, "Accessibility: Why You Need to Work Toward Progress Over Perfection", she writes:
Accessibility isn't all or nothing. It's progress, not perfection.
I try to remember that. I try to find those good things, things that we do right. For example, we have some outstanding professionals who contribute to accessibility from their positions - for instance, Janne Käki, who does a fantastic job with iOS development. And that definitely is progress.
As mentioned earlier in the blog post, I felt like I had lost my (accessibility) spark. Everything felt more or less pointless. I felt that whatever I do, someone always tells me, "No, accessibility doesn't matter." Ok, usually, the words were not that direct. And it wasn't just about work - it was also outside it.
I read Sheri Bryne-Haber's blog post "Regaining your accessibility spark". Initially, I thought it had some good advice. I didn't act on it. But I kept coming back to that post.
Some things on the list have helped me a lot this time. I needed to remind myself of the "why": why I do what I do.
I also needed (and still need) to remind myself about the progress, about the (little) things I've accomplished. Like the audit on our website and how the bug fixes from that audit are moving forward - they're not just visible yet.
And I sought help. I've had this incredible occupational psychologist with whom I've been talking about the work and how to improve it. To discuss with someone, to go through things with someone outside of the situation (but still knows the circumstances), has helped me tremendously.
Now that the situation is better, I have focused on things other than work. Sheri Bryne-Haber suggests things like finding accessibility mentoring/volunteering gigs, writing a blog or a book, or learning a new language, gaining a new hobby, or investing more in a hobby you already have.
And now that I think of it... I've done all three. I'm doing some volunteering. I've also been writing to my blog more (and I might have some ideas about the book part, too) and investing more in hobbies I already have - knitting and kayaking. And with investing, I mean I've spent lately much more money on them than for a while. But also time!
So, I've been on the edge of burnout - again. In this blog post, I shared how I got further away from that edge and how I've been finding my accessibility spark again. It's been a journey, and that journey continues.
Do you have similar experiences? Did you lose your spark and regain it?