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Duration:03:34
Uploaded:2020-07-14
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In which John discusses burn out, struggling through (gestures broadly), and realizing that your own joy can be something you produce. (...to quote Hank Green's brilliant novel A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor.)


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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday.  The ice I'm skating on is getting pretty thin at the moment.  That line, incidentally, has become such a cliche that it's easy to forget how terrifying it would be to actually skate on thin ice.  Like, as you glide away from shore, you become progressively less certain that the ground beneath you will hold, which come to think of it, is not a terrible metaphor for 2020.

Now, I am conscious of how incredibly fortunate I am in these hard times to have a safe place to live, work I can do from home, a healthy family, and so on, but nonetheless, I am struggling.  For starters, I'm burnt out, not just with work but also like a lot of parents I know with the challenges of trying to help kids through a time of immense uncertainty and also the constant management and analysis of exposure risk.  

Also there's just the mental health problems that I brought into this, like the endless thought loops and (?~0:50) compulsions of OCD are nothing if not annoyingly monotonous and there is something a little soul destroying about being forced to think the same thoughts over and over and over again regardless of whether they're useful or productive.

But this is a video about joy and hope, and I will get to that, but first, I feel this ice is getting pretty thin feeling not just personally but also on a macro level because my nation is experiencing an explosion of new COVID-19 cases even as many other countries are making serious progress with the pandemic and that's frustrating, like, last week in my home state of Indiana, which has a population under 7 million people, there were more new COVID cases and deaths than there were in the nation of Germany, which has a population of over 83 million people, and Indiana's one of the better states, COVID-wise.  It is so frustrating and heartbreaking to see so much unnecessary suffering and death caused by the failure of our political and public health systems and I don't know what to do about it.  I feel overwhelmed by the problem and powerless before it.  

I mean, the last 12 weeks have been the deadliest 12 week period in the United States in many decades and there are still people saying this is a hoax, but I am trying to make this a video about hope and joy.  Okay, so Hank, now that your book has been out for a week, I feel like I can share my favorite quote from it.  There's no spoilers in it or anything.  There are many great lines in the book and my copy is extensively dog-eared, but my favorite line is "You will always struggle with not feeling productive until you accept that your own joy can be something you produce.  It is not the only thing you make, nor should it be, but it is something valuable and beautiful."  

God, I love that line, Hank.  I was thinking about it last night as I got out of bed around midnight because I couldn't sleep and I was like, you know what?  I'm gonna produce some of my own joy, and then I spent the next five hours watching (?~2:32) explain to me how Rubik's cubes work.  

Now, Hank, you know that I have very limited spacial intelligence.  Like, I've lived in my neighborhood for 13 years and I couldn't draw you a map of it.  You know those children's jigsaw puzzles with like, 25 pieces?  I can't do them, and yet, last night with the help of (?~2:46) and anxious insomnia, I finished a Rubik's cube after 30 years of failure, I did it!   And in the process, I produced some of my own joy.  Now, it's not like I made a vlogbrothers video or a podcast episode or answered the emails I'm behind on, but this also wasn't time wasted.  

Hank, that line from your book has been really revelatory for me because it has given me permission to produce joy even when I'm so worried and when so much is so horrible.  I must make room for seeking and making joy because that is what cultivates hope.  Let me know in comments if you can where you're trying to make or find joy these days.  I really recommend Rubik's cubes, which just to re-iterate, I did this with my own two hands and the help of a step-by-step YouTube tutorial.

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.