“Are you a battery type of person, or a generator type of person?” he asked me, with that typical grin on his face. It’s the grin that always shows up when he asks me cryptic questions like this one. He likes to confuse me sometimes, I think. I told my therapist I often feel exhausted, not just at the end of the day, but often even when I get out of bed. This question was his answer.
“I’m not sure I completely follow,” I respond to him. My face must have been the question mark that it always turns into when I don’t understand what someone is trying to tell me. My facial expression doesn’t lie. And just for the record, neither do I.
“Do you burn all your fuel, until you need to cut yourself off from work to recharge,” he continued, “or do you build in activities that ensure a continuous supply of energy?”
How could I forget the battery-generator analogy? He must have asked me at least two or three times before. “I’m definitely a battery guy,” I reply, relieved that I did understand the question after receiving the first hint.
“I definitely need my weekends,” I continue, “but perhaps even more than that, I need my holidays.”
What does he mean, ‘why?’ It’s who I am. That’s why. My face turns question mark again, an annoyed question mark this time. I just told him I’m a battery guy, that I need to recharge. I need weekends and holidays to recharge. How does he not get the obvious answers to his own questions?
“I need them…” I hesitate, I better get this right, “because the activities that would make me function like a generator are not well-suited for the work day.” God, that sounded horrible. He must think I’m some pervert that wants to watch porn all day. Why did I phrase it like that?
“You know,” I add unconvincingly, “spending time with family, cooking, hiking, drawing, whatever… It doesn’t really work during work, now does it?”
He does seem happy I added that part. Or is he just acting to make me feel better?
“When I worked in a hospital after my PhD,” he said, “life at work was very stressful indeed. In a very unsustainable manner. After a certain while I realized that I needed to build in activities that would keep the engine running. I needed a generator.”
“So what did you do?” I asked, genuinely curious, “Not so many options there, it seems?”
“I read a book,” he answered with a friendly smile. “Just ten minutes of quiet and a couple of pages of fiction would be enough to be completely out of it and recharge my energy levels.”
This conversation happened a few weeks ago. Reading can and does recharge me. Especially with fiction, I snap out of reality in no-time. It was great advice! But, you know what is the worst? I haven’t tried it out, for one simple reason. I feel so goddamn guilty all the time for not spending enough time on work, that I cannot get myself to read a fiction novel for ten minutes during work time. What’s even worse is that I’m pretty sure that my boss wouldn’t give a damn. It is all in my mind…
Now I would be really curious to hear from other academics (or people from any high-stress work environment). Battery or generator? How do you recharge?