DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE PART I: I Am Burned Out!

I have been a litigator in Eastern North Carolina for 20 years. I have been a mother for 29 years, and for the most part, I have been a single mother to three girls who are 29, 20, and 11. 

I had my first daughter when I was 19 years old, a teenager. Despite the fact that I was 19 years old and had no clue who I was, I was pretty determined. I was determined to give my daughter the life she deserved…whatever that meant! One thing I wholeheartedly believed was whatever it meant, it included me completing my education. So, with the support of my family, despite being a 19-year-old mother, I was able to earn my bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in women’s studies.  

After relocating to Atlanta, Georgia and being in a marriage that existed for all of the wrong reasons, I realized my undergraduate degree was not going to allow me to provide for my child as I had hoped to. So, I applied to one law school, was accepted and the rest is history. Well, not really! LOL!

My second daughter was born two months before I graduated from law school.  Her dad and I, both young and feeling ourselves were too centered on our own wants and needs. It just didn’t click that all of our decisions were to be guided by what was in our baby girl’s best interest once she came into the world. So, our relationship flopped, I returned to North Carolina with my two girls, took the bar exam and created life as I thought it should be. Again, all while having no clue who I really was. 

What I did know is that I had grit and determination. I know…so cliche’. 🙂 But that is really all I was sure of. So, I hit the ground running determined to build a solid reputation as a fierce litigator. Not to mention, there was also the issue of having these children that needed to be provided for, and my earnings were solely based on the clients that I was able to bring in to the law office that I landed at. So, I worked my ass off to prove that I was ready, willing, and able to advocate for people that trusted me enough to give me a chance. 

Several years after I began practicing law, I attended a Death Penalty Conference. I remember meeting a lot of interesting, awe-inspiring litigators who were extremely passionate about the work they did. Today, I could not tell you anything those awe-inspiring litigators told me but I vividly remember meeting a female lawyer during lunch one day. She sticks in my memory because she shared with me that she had made the decision to stop litigating because she found it to be impossible to balance work with her responsibilities as a wife and a mother. Let me just say, I was not the woman that I have evolved into today. So instead of accepting and applauding her decision,  I judged her. I attributed her “failure” to her lack of ambition, lack of organization, and lack of dedication. I was suffering from what I now call the SUPERWOMAN COMPLEX. I was still running around with my superwoman cape and my ego on my shoulder believing that if you work hard enough, no matter what, you can strike the perfect balance. This complex ultimately led to my burnout! 

I never thought I would see the day come when I would acknowledge there is no such thing as balance. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BALANCE! And, if you try to force your life to be in balance you will run yourself in the ground.  With that being said, when I look around it is clear to me that I am not alone in this state of burnout. So the next few posts are dedicated to the world of burnout.

Be sure to stay tuned for Wednesday’s post, DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE PART II – WHAT IS BURNOUT?

Much Love,

Tonza


Author: Tonza D. Ruffin

Perfectly Imperfect but VERY PROUD WOMAN, MOM, LAWYER, and AUTHOR, but most importantly...LIFE LOVER! I laugh loud, I work hard, I play hard, I am adventurous, I am curious, I am driven, I have moments of deep insecurity, I am loving, I am vulnerable, I am explosive (not one of my finer qualities), I dance around my house alone, I am an awful perfectionist which makes my insecurity worse, I sing out loud in my car without any concern for whose watching, I have trust issues, I do not live through my children, I no longer try to force my children into the mold that I created so that I could feel validated as a mother, I am a risk-taker, I am guarded in my personal life, I am kind, I am grateful. I am so excited about the rest of my life!

5 thoughts

  1. The Burnout!!! This was a great read. I too in the midst of Law School thought others were not ambitious enough until I became a mother (not the traditional way). I then pushed harder to prove to myself I could balance it all which lead to my downfall. Balance kept me in a world wind and getting upset when what I felt was priority began to take a back seat. My burnout led to health issues, bitterness and placing blame. I learned a lot but burnout still exist. I think it still has a lot to do with societal pressure of Womanhood and especially in a male dominant field to prove yourself. I can at least acknowledge now when I’m burnt out and I step back “sometimes”.

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