Every designer’s worst nightmare:

Feeling burnt out. Wanting to never design anything ever again.

From my conversations with others, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s totally normal to fear being burnt out, and, even more terrifying, to be burnt out.

And we all know it’s going to be okay, but it’s like when you got the chicken pox when you were 10 and you never thought the itching would go away. My anxiety tells me repeatedly, every 3 seconds, that the itching will never stop. Or now, that my want to design and to make will never come back.

As soon as I calmed down from the wake of my final projects and graduations, I fell down a very deep, dark hole of Quarter-Life Crisis.

What do you mean? You’ve spent 5 years of college preparing for this exact moment and you don’t want to do anything?

Yep, that sounds about right.

And it’s not just that my brain doesn’t want to design anything, or I can’t evaluate one more typeface, or even that I’m tired from the added pressure that the end of a semester brings. It’s that I, quite suddenly, have no idea what I want to do with my life. Nothing. Blank, terrifying canvas.

So today I start the rest of my life. I’m going back to work. I’m starting by making myself a smoothie, finding design inspiration on twitter, making a non-committal to do list and uploading a few vlogs from a week and a half ago. If I finish one project, maybe I’ll feel inclined to start another.

I’ll put on makeup even though I probably won’t leave the house. I’ll take a few pictures. I’ll write a blog post about how I’m feeling.

And then maybe I can be ready to start something. Something to start today, to start tomorrow, to start this week.

Thanks for everything. I’ll see you soon.


P.S. If I owe you an email, tweet or whatever else, I’m getting to it. Promise.

P.P.S. Proof :)

06-04-13 Cheers by Britta Swiderski-1


Filed under Life and Health

22 Responses to Every designer’s worst nightmare:

  1. Valerie Gee

    You are too precious. I love your picture with the smoothie, it looks delish! So okay, coming from somebody who spent 8 years in college, I completely understand how you are feeling. Here is my suggestion…. Ready?


    Yes, that’s it. Just breathe. Give yourself a moment in time to relish your successes, to bask in the glory of being done with school, and to get bored. As soon as you get bored, you’ll find something amazing to do, that will call to you and speak to your soul, and you’ll be back on track. You’ll find something you can’t wait to do, or create, or design, or whatever. It’s okay to be overwhelmed right now, but it’s better to relax.

    I hope that helps. Love from Colorado,

    • Valerie, I couldn’t have said it better! Your words are exactly the same one that were swimming around in my head as I read Britta’s Post. Gosh, I remember finishing up my degree in Architecture and the hell that it was, and then having those same exact feelings. It’s EXHAUSTION!

      Britta – I won’t write a separate Comment, because Val’s above says it all perfectly. I was where you are now, umm, in ’96. I had finished up my degree in Architectural Design was moved back home within 2 days, had an awesome job at a, architectural firm starting in one week, and I was sitting there with NOTHING in my head. It was a blank slate. Everything I had poured into my college career was GONE. I was terrified, and depressed.

      I decided to take the next week and do nothing. I went to Bally’s discovered Starbuck’s, and hit some bars. It was great. I didn’t let design enter my mind at all.

      Yes, “it” all came back. The mojo returned. It will for you, too, honey. I promise. you just KICKED ASS in college!!!! I’m so happy for you. You have a whole new world ahead of you. For now, just enjoy YOURSELF, and nothing else.

      {hugs} from a fellow artist who totally gets it!

  2. Tiffany O'Grady

    Number one, it will be ok! This will pass and you will jump into your tomorrows with both feet.

    But number two, it doesn’t have to be today. :) Give yourself a break. There has been a ton of pressure these last few months and pressuring yourself further to have it all figured out right this minute probably isn’t effective :). I like your game plan though!

  3. Elaine

    I think “decompressing” for a while after the 5-year quest for your holy grail is certainly not unusual. In fact, I would think it is quite common. Once you have been able to mentally and physically recover from the last half decade (or more) and your body and mind have healed I would surmise your “mojo” will return. You have laid out a good path to return and the return trip should be relatively short now. Good luck and give yourself the time you need.

  4. Angela Martin

    What the first two commenters said. Enjoy the break. Relax. Breathe. Take time, let your body/mind/soul recover before pushing onto the next thing.

  5. I left a comment for you, sweety, under Valerie Gee’s comment above ;)

  6. I’m in the same spot as you right now, but I’m five years post graduation. Like you, I have a degree that offers a fairly broad range of career options – in my case, it’s English. I’ve been pursuing teaching, but that pursuit is starting to seem pointless. I don’t really have the drive to be cut throat about trying to get a job in a field that is supposed to be about loving the material and the students. I wish I could have had the quarter life crisis at 23 and not at 28 (almost 29, yikes). When I look at going back to school, I see myself finishing somewhere around age 33, and then I’ll have student loan debt until I’m 43. And if I have kids, that means I’ll have barely finished off my own student loan debt when it’s time to start thinking about sending my kids to college. It’s pretty overwhelming, honestly.

    I just keep telling myself that something will come along that will point me in the right direction, and I think that will happen for you, too. I’m taking this summer to narrow my options, do some crafting (not necessarily my usual scrapbooking and cardmaking), and just relax. I’m hoping to come into August with a new sense of clarity.

  7. Linda Baker

    I am sure you will be inspired and know what you want to do with the rest of your life soon. I am sure you are just tired and ready for a break. This stage of life can be hard and a bit scary. I know you will do well with whatever you choose. Hugs, Linda

  8. Mary-Anne V.

    Britta what you are feeling post grad is really normal…not fun but normal. You are incredibly talented and motivated so I know you will bounce back . Take some time to discover your other talents and interests and you will come back reenergized. Hope each day brings smiles like the one I see in your picture!

  9. Girl, that is totally normal! I went thru the same thing-when I graduated, and then about two years later. Relax….and maybe get into some other things that aren’t design related? That helps me sometimes!

  10. I think you may have remembered that I said I was old enough to be your mother and I am! With that said, I still don’t know what I really want to do at my age. heh-heh! Seriously, I tell the truth. I would prefer not to work at all and retire and nap and stamp and die cut, etc., but that is not to be. I think I mentioned I got laid off from my job end of 2010 and I was there too many years. I should have left a long time ago. But it gave me a new outlook on life. (I have since returned to work, don’t think I updated you on that). But I know the feeling you are going thru as I graduated from the Univ. of Wash. many moons ago! And didn’t know what in the world I was going to do. And as I said, still don’t! Take it easy, get some rest, of course you are exhausted. I had that too, but I had it worse when I was working at that place I used to work at. Bad burn out, that was worse burn out than finishing school. I shudder… But you are so talented and things will work out. Things work out, it’s taken me a long time to figure that out and not get as anxiety ridden as I used to. Hugs to you! Kathy

  11. I go through the same things, and while sometimes I know exactly why I am burnt out, there are often times when I have no clue why. I’m not afraid to say that due to so many issues in my life, I am now taking an SSRI. I haven’t been taking it long enough to see if it helps, but I’ll let you know. Also, for the first time in my life, I’m going to start seeing a therapist and I’m SO freaking excited!!!! He’s all about restoring balance to your life and he uses so many techniques, so if one day I think accupuncture will work, he’s the guy. And if a different week, all I want is someone to listen and bounce ideas off of, he’s the one. I really just want to be organized, able to commit to things and feel successful and happy and complete at the same time. It’s something I haven’t felt in so long. So anyways, sorry for venting on you, but I kinda know how you feel on the burnt-out-don’t-know-what-to-do-next kind of feeling. Hang in there!!!!!!! Hugs!

  12. Karen

    You are such a creative person. You will pull through this. Wishing you nothing but the best. On a side note, you mentioned about getting the recipe for compost cookies, check this out. http://milkbarstore.com/main/press/recipes-and-how-tos/

  13. I love how real you are, Britta! You are on the cusp of the rest of your life – give yourself a break and some needed breathing room. And that yummy smoothie LOL! After all of your hard work, burnout is completely understandable. It will all come to you. Live a little! Wish I lived closer to you – I would so take you out for a beer! Or two…LOL! ( yep I love beer too!)

  14. gooddollie

    I hope you consider doing more online classes! I loved Design Principles and I’m looking forward to more. Perhaps an art journaling class? You will be awesome at whatever it is you do!

  15. Carolyn Picken

    Welcome to the real world…you have now graduated into fulltime adulthood. The good news is this will,pass, and your new wonderful, joyful, inspiring, purposeful life will come alive. Take this time to rest, regroup, make little goals, allow yourself to find your way. This is what happens when we are goal driven with a purpose, and it is accomplished. Then you say “now what”. I have no doubt that you will find your way, and be a smashing success in all you do. You are very talented. So take a deep breath and enjoy each new day and opportunity.

  16. I know just how you feel. I’m older, but definitely no wiser. I’ve just started this whole eat right and exercise thing, trainer and all, and it’s hard. People say that exercising gives you energy, but I feel like right now, I don’t have the energy for anything else. Every once in awhile I just stumble into my craft room and then turn right around because nothing interests me at all. So I’m not doing any of it. Hopefully once the exercising becomes easier, I’ll get some of that energy everyone is talking about! But I definitely know the feeling of looking at all you want to do, but just not being able to do it.

    I think you’re on the right path though. The book I was just reading says the secret to getting things finished is small, achievable (but challenging) goals. The happy feeling of finishing one will propel you straight into the next challenge. Good luck!

  17. Barb Ghigliotty

    Hi Britta,
    I’ve read everyone’s posts to you, and really don’t have much to add…Please just recognize that you are “Exhausted” right now! You just finished 5 years of college, and all the pressure that goes along with it. I think we ‘women’ are so hard on ourselves, honestly!!!

    This too, shall pass…I promise!!! I don’t want to repeat what others have said, so just breathe…ok, now do it again, and again. Try (I know it’s hard) not to pressure yourself to figure it all out this minute. It will come to you in its’ own time, sweetie! In fact, I’m willing to bet in no time at all, you will be posting how excited you are to create again! Hugs to you…Barb

  18. I really admire your fortitude. I really (super) enjoyed your vlog, especially in New York. You’re just “right out there” about what you see and feel. That is so refreshing. And you are so beautiful. I think everyone has some good points. But you know in your gut, I’m sure, that you will get through this. It’s so healthy to share your feelings in an environment/community of creative people who will support and encourage you. Hang in there.

  19. SandiL

    Hi Britta, Your such a sweetie I must agree with everyone else your just exhausted. Seriously you’ve just put in 110% and all your energy and creative mojo into graduating there is always down time after that. A bit of blah and empty is something everyone goes through after a stressful overworked period. If your still not feeling better, still stressed and anxious, physical activity naturally creates chemicals within the body that fight the chemical imbalance that stress and anxiety create. I know this because I suffer from psoriasis and my trigger is stress and emotional distress and exercise is what keeps my body from freaking out. This doesn’t mean go to a gym and exhaust yourself to the point where you can’t move the next day, just a brisk walk for 30min a day will do and if you feel up to more go for it. I find that it really does help me, much easier to stay calm and positive when your body isn’t dealing with a chemical imbalance. Take Care Britta

  20. Good luck and take care !

  21. Hello sweet, wonderful, beautiful, innocent, creative adopted daughter. Sorry after such a huge milestone you are feeling this way. Don’t over think it… you just need to decompress and let go. Do nothing unless you want to for a week. Just “Be” Things will fall into place and God has a plan for you…. just trust that …be open and things will work out. Maybe disconnect…don’t upload… etc… just get out and experience nature. Go to a movie…go shopping . Disconnect and reconnect…lol
    ok Im blabbing but, trying to make you feel better. I know good things are to come and I know they will. It’s like Christmas …there is alway a let down after family leaves etc. SEnding you big cyber hugs. Call me anytime. xxo

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