Is your end-of-year theme ‘exhaustion’?


We are writing this end-of-year piece as yet another COVID wave besets Victoria, Australia (where the Research Whisperers live). Doesn’t COVID realise that it’s, like, so 3 years ago? Unfortunately, it is very much still with us. Definitely like someone who invited themselves over to your place and just won’t leave.

Discussing what our theme might be for this post, Jonathan almost immediately said, ‘Exhaustion’.


I suggested exhaustion as a theme both because I feel tired and because it keeps coming up in conversations at work. I feel like the academics that I work with are even more harried than usual (whatever ‘usual’ passes for these days). While the number of applications are getting back to pre-lockdown levels, they seem to have less zing, more cut-and-paste. Maybe I’m just paying more attention.

Personally, I turned 60 this year. I have a ‘seniors’ card now, and I’m not happy about it. All the bad working habits I developed during lockdown have come home to roost. My shoulders, back, and neck are creaky and sore. I ache. I feel like I get cranky much more easily these days. I keep second guessing myself: Am I just a bit tired, or is it because I’m getting old?

On the up-side, I submitted my PhD this year (still waiting for examiner comments, thanks for asking). Tseen, Phil Ward and I published a book together. My amazing colleague, Alice Demattos Guimarães, came to visit from Norway. I took lunch. I still get to work with extraordinary people. I still get to make the world a better place. Maybe I’ll feel better in 2024?


On some levels, I feel like my professional world is a much narrower place at the moment. There are reasons for this. My caring commitments as a sole parent and part of a tri-generational household with a parent who is becoming increasingly dependent means that so much is not easily possible: international opportunities for conferences, fieldwork, or collaboration; my ‘usual’ juggle of projects and professional roles; or consistent instances of coffee-chats and catch ups that are the life-blood of knowing what’s going on and who’s doing what. I’m by no means  cut off or isolated but these restrictions mean that I’ve become much more aware of what a privileged existence I’ve had with my career thus far. Is exhaustion a theme relevant to me for this year? Like the boiling frog, I hadn’t taken notice of the increasingly adverse environment I had created for myself.  The tangle of obligations that I was no longer able to fulfil with integrity has led to my shedding a lot of roles in recent months and into next year. It feels like I’m being slack for doing this but I’m trying to give myself more room to maneuver than I think I need. I’m tired of always saying / thinking that I’m tired.

Our organic move towards a much more relaxed publishing schedule means that our posts are often driven by topics from you, our Research Whisperer community. We are ever grateful to those who think of us and our blog, and submit or suggest things for our folks. In the frenzy that is most of our everyday lives, something Jonathan and I never overlook is how much the RW community means to us and how appreciative we are of you all.


Author Bios: Jonathan O’Donnell and Tseen Khoo