Data Dead Brain

Did the Brain I'm Proud of Die?



It's been 3 weeks since I was laid off, and I don't feel like I'm mentally better. By that, I mean, my creative self has yet to re-emerge. I had dinner with a longtime work friend, and he pointed out exactly what has happened to me.

“I think you rewired your brain at Ziff.”

I think he's right. All those years, I just assumed my right brain would hold strong. It did not. A non-creative job that required a massive amount of context switching and the ability to work in multiple platforms for multiple companies (in an operational capacity) meant that my brain had to adapt. The change feels almost two-dimensional. Whatever used to run in the background and give me creative juice, stopped. 

I'm not sure when it completely ran down, but my creative mind seems to have rolled to a grinding halt. Now I have to get it up and running again. So how do I do that? I searched “how to I rewire  my brain to be creative?”

Welp! Guess what?
It's all the things I used to do, and really LOVED to do, that will restart my engines.

Nature - I used to hike, camp, bike, trail run, sit on a country porch and grow my naturalist point of view. I slowly stopped doing that as my brain got more and more tired, and that affected my physical energy.

Meditation - I used to sit for as long as 45 minutes. It helped me rewire my brain to stop holding on to things that don't matter. In some ways, it created a short term memory loss. That was ok, because I was training my brain to lose the memories that served no purpose now or in the future. It left space for dreaming and creativity. Again, the more tired my brain got, the more I lost the ability to meditate. Ironically, company health initiatives typically suggest - over and over - meditation. The truth is that it is almost impossible to do if you're running well above a healthy capacity of mental fitness.

Art - I like the original art I surround myself with, but I'm not sure I see it anymore. I like to think I feel it. But I haven't been to a museum that wasn't a tourist crush in a very long time. I haven't attended an art opening in a few years. I haven't been to a play. I don't hit up the art cinema (do those even exist anymore?). I hardly ever attend concerts. I don't even listen to music in my truck. I literally lived in silence to give my over worked head a rest. And I left the creative door shut.

Literature - I used to be an avid reader. It had to be literature; not beach reads or non-fiction/self help stuff. I let those stories and themes and characters sink into my psyche and let them challenge my way of thinking. And from there, they inspired me. I almost completely stopped reading over the last 12 years because my brain was too tired to absorb the words.

I can do all these things again, and I am in a long sleep phase that is hopefully resting my mind so that I can enjoy being myself. I will never go back to that level of mental heft. It's unnatural, and it changed me in ways I do not like.

The scary part of not wanting to return to operational, mental overdrive, is that operational mental overdrive jobs are the ones immediately available to me. Lord god, I may have to live under bridge to survive as myself. 

For those of you running fast on the mental treadmill, be aware of what may be happening to your brain. I'm not here to tell you how to slow it down because, clearly, I couldn't do that for myself. But if you can, take a beat. Ask yourself how much of what you're doing could be stopped without sacrificing your performance. Also, the more you do, the more that's expected of you, so slow down before you get too far into it. That massive brain heft will be seen as your benchmark, and then where do you go? 

Everyone said it would take a month for me to wind down from 12 years of breakneck brain speed. I think it's going to take longer than that. In the meantime, I can ease into some consulting work and control my own capacity. That's working pretty good right now. I don't know. Maybe AI is supposed to take breakneck brainwork away from us so that we can revert to being human. The challenge will be how make the shift back to homebase without losing our incomes. 

Probably time for all of us to start dreaming about what's next.