"Their willingness to labor for love and not money will, over time, expose them to chronic stress. That is especially true in universities, where there are few explicit limits on working hours.... [B]urnout is more acute in younger faculty members than in older ones (and in women more than men). It’s easier to do too much too soon than to build barriers between your work and psyche.... Academic culture fosters burnout when it encourages overwork, promotes a model of professors as isolated entrepreneurs, and offers little recognition for good teaching or mentoring... The response to faculty burnout should, therefore, not be to shrug and say that academic work is a labor of love, and some people just aren’t cut out for it. Instead, the response should be to find ways to give these highly skilled workers the rest, respect, and reward they need to stay healthy and effective. Institutions cause burnout, and only a whole effort of an institution can deal with it. A good start would be for colleges and universities to support and reward the things they say they value.... That would be more useful than drafting another strategic plan that will be ignored a year later."
Writes Jonathan Malesic, who left a tenured position teaching theology at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Malesic presents himself as having "burned out" after 11 years and at the age of 40. I say "presents" because he didn't leave the job purely because he burned out. He also did it to live with his wife, who'd gotten a job in what sounds like a nicer place than Wilkes-Barre. (He refers to it as "a bucolic region."*) And he's "working on a book about the spiritual costs of the American work ethic," which sounds like a better job. Writing a book is much more relaxing than writing a book and also teaching and handling administrative work — with all the demands and annoyances inherent in dealing with other people — except to the extent that you stress yourself out about how you're not operating from within the normal, respected structure of working in America. But if that's the very topic of your book — "the spiritual costs of the American work ethic" — that stress is a source of material.
I can't tell whether Malesic meditates on his manhood as he labors in the shade of his wife's career. Does he look at his name and shudder to think "male sick"? His essay gets a little personal, but perhaps not that personal or not personal in that way. In any case, I love the topic "the spiritual costs of the American work ethic." It's something I have always thought about, and I have never fallen into the problem of burnout that he's talks about, which sounds like a manic-depressive cycle, within which you get high off the intense work and then crash. I've always had strong boundaries and a deep instinct to protect myself from absorption into the mind of any workplace — including the one where I've worked for the last 33 years and from which I'm walking away very soon, with no sense of burnout, just a desire for more freedom.
* After writing this post, I found his website, and it says he lives in Dallas. "Bucolic"? [ADDED: I'm making an inference that could be incorrect, that he spent his sabbatical in the place where his wife received the job.]