Burning Out

The past fortnight has gifted me a new ‘big-girl’ job, a thesis topic, new characters to play with, a resurrected old plot, two teams to manage and three final papers to keep me from all of them. Between a security clearance process and the inevitable slope towards finals I’m curious how long this adrenaline kick is going to last before I burn out.

Now understand, I am not complaining. This unbalanced stumble has been wildly successful in getting me to do things. Momentum is an apt term for it, describing it as ‘progress’ would imply a sort of deliberation. This is a manic sprint down a steep hill.

Fire signs are supposed to be aggressive, creative, brash and impulsive. Whether you put any stock in horoscopes or star signs, culturally they have significance and people make assumptions about you based off them.  After learning my birth condemned me as a Leo, my classmate, a full grown man, once declared. “Well I can’t work with you, fire signs are far too vain.” Hokay.

My favorite short story is about a dying man failing to start a fire (why my father thought Jack London was suitable reading for a nine year old… I’ll never know). In Joss Whedon’s “Once More with Feeling” the heroine laments the loss of warmth one song and dances herself towards combustion the next.

Speaking of songs. I went through my music collection and searched the word ‘fire’. The results were impressive, over three hundred of my modest four thousand track library came up. That number increases when you add the songs resulting from the search query “flame”.

Books, especially the young adult and romance genres, have made good use of the imagery. Rebellion, love, war, lust and just about anything else involving passion always start with a spark. The burn, cleansing, necessity and ruin of fire is something universally understood and experienced, and has been for a long time. Using it as a literary device makes sense.

I’ve been on these aforementioned kicks before. They’re usually productive and only a little destructive. Saying ‘no” to nothing means saying ‘yes’ to things I shouldn’t   Nothing life changing (usually) but my credit card bills after these conflagrations have been cringe-worthy.

I liken it to my introduction of a game called ‘Fireball’. During a trip down to Santa Barbara my friends, then students at UCSB, decided our nighttime festivities needed a livening up. We tore up an old shirt, tied the scraps into a ball, soaked the thing in lighter fluid and began tossing it around like a baseball. You held on too long and your hand burned. Between that and managing our differing levels of inebriation it was a challenging game.

The real trick was paying attention, once three fireballs were arcing through the air getting a face full of flame was a real and present danger. Pat, the orchestrator of this game, taught me this when he gave a good two-second warning before lobbing the makeshift ballistic towards my turned back. My reflexes are not bad, but they failed me this time.

The enkindled t-shirt ball hit me square in the neck. Between gasping, laughing and cursing I managed to pick it back up and toss it again, not realizing a good-portion of my hair had crisped away. The discovery occurred later and after a moment of shock, I turned, proudly showing the battle scar to my compatriots.

Hair grows back and I gained a story and something to nettle Pat about for years to come.

I’ve enjoy these moods while they are happening and try not mourn the little losses they incur, they’re rarely permanent (though the blonde fuzz over the back of my hands never really recovered). The rewards are worth it, and I’ve yet to ever burn out completely.


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