re: I'm the maintainer of Babel, ask me anything! VIEW POST


Hey Henry! Since most of your work is being a maintainer, how often do you get burned out? And what do you find is the best way to deal with it?


Hey @lianafelt ,

Thanks for the question, sorry for the later response. Just going to type out quick thoughts!

I guess it depends on the definition (or if it's a severity level before you get to burn out)? If it's just a matter of not wanting to work on the project then that happens often and at least in that case I know that's pretty normal. Even for your hobbies, your work/job, or your passion it's possible to want to take a break. When you are thinking about something all day every day you lose sight of a lot and sometimes simply not doing it helps so much. Maybe it's easier with a job if you can take off weekends or not have to work late, if it's a startup it does seem like it consumes your life?

It's funny since open source may seem like a startup too: you don't get paid, you may work on it with a few people, you are trying to grow and get usage etc. Except you don't care about raising money or making a living off of it so you are free to leave. It's really an interesting thing where to me when we feel this burden as a maintainer it's this trap I put on myself. Nothing is forcing me to continue working other than the fact I choose to continue to do it. That self-motivating factor this negative idea that if you stop working on this the "world will end" or everyone's lives will be worse doesn't help and contributes to the further working and frustration of working. I kind of talk about this in (there's a stream link but kinda low quality).

I still deal with this all the time (even now so I should take my own advice 😂), but I think maybe in a few ways.

Simplest/obvious solution that we don't want ever want to do - stop working on whatever is taking time that isn't actually priority/necessary (in this case open source). Free up the time and get the rest of life in order because most likely something else is suffering as a result (could be work, relationships, money, or in my case health). So that is more of a lifestyle/physical change?

Maybe next is probably more of a change in attitude/motivation. Really think about why you are doing open source in the first place and the reason it feels like everything is falling down. Are you scared that the project will die, or it will become useless, or that if you stop then who else will take over, etc? I think it's an opportunity to look at yourself and see the pride you may have: do I really think I'm the only own capable of doing it? Maybe I should solely focus on training someone else, asking the community, learning to delegate, learning to trust? Maybe remember why you started doing open source in the first place and why you aren't feeling or doing that anymore. Maybe you just need to focus on the things you are interested in, after all you can decide that as a maintainer?

Ultimately for me it's about understanding where the feeling of burden/exhaustion/lack of passion lies. That I feel compelled to continue working despite me not actually wanting to because of various things: negativity in the community, barrage of issues, overwhelming feeling of "things" that need to be done + lack of the sense of any sort of control. But I must remember there is grace in all of that. We shouldn't be defined by our work; our identity isn't in this "thing" and I shouldn't think of myself as the "x person", otherwise I really am trapping myself and cannot leave. I think about whether I'm feeling some sort of entitlement/pride/unfairness and bring that up to God. Sometimes you can get lost in yourself trying to help others and forget what it's all about in the first place, that the work itself becomes the source of joy and not people. If all this "doing" is causing more trouble, maybe it's the source of trouble in the heart? Maybe all these activities and busyness shows that it's impossible to keep up and that a certain focus/clarity is absolutely necessary, that "no" is also a viable answer. Maybe in trying to doing everything you end up being able to do nothing, and the core of what it's all about is lost. Rest!

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

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