December 18, 2006

The Science of Burnout
Jennifer Senior’s article on burnout resonated with me [“Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” December 4]. Until recently, I was an associate at a law firm in Manhattan. Legal associates work 80-plus hours weekly, often enduring the verbal abuse that is part of the culture of many firms. After five years, I was burned out—depressed, unfulfilled, and underappreciated. I quit my job and became a teacher at a public school in the Bronx. Senior wonders whether it’s strange to cure burnout by leaping to “the caring professions.” I’ve done just that and don’t find such a move strange at all. It has changed my life, completely, for the better. I hope it will affect my students just as positively.
—Rebecca Green, Manhattan

Congratulations on a nicely written, well-researched article. I’d like to add that burnout is often accompanied by a sense of shame and a feeling of failure. Being unable to handle stress is different from failure. There’s a loss involved, and it is painful, but there’s more to an individual than that.
—Serge Prengel, Manhattan

I thought, though, that you might have mentioned good old-fashioned boredom. Boredom accompanies burnout when once interesting and challenging work no longer feels so.
—Fran Cohen, Manhasset Hills, N.Y.

Your cover story reminds me of my favorite title, from a book written by Sharon M. Draper, a schoolteacher who loved her job despite the long hours and the many stresses: Not Quite Burned Out But Crispy Around the Edges.
—Richard Siegelman,
Plainview, N.Y.

One important group was missing from Senior’s article: All of the stay-at-home moms who once had demanding careers. We epitomize those who have changed our lives, “which actually relieved them from the crushing burdens of thinking about themselves.” In my “mommy” circle, there are ex-lawyers, consultants, doctors, teachers, hedge-funders. Most of us did burn out and chose to be stay-at-home mothers, rather than project ourselves back into the very workforces that saw our ability to procreate as a negative.
—Susan Coppola, Westchester

Going Nuclear
John Currin praises Dave Eggers for “going nuclear” on someone who wasn’t being positive enough [“Art: Influences: John Currin,” by Karen Rosenberg, November 27]. This is the intellectual equivalent of punching someone in the face for not being peaceful enough. If one were really to take seriously Currin’s motto of “saying ‘yes’ to everything,” shouldn’t one also learn to say yes to … no? Logical consistency, if not a regard for decent art, requires that one make room for at least a little bit of negativity in one’s life.
—Adam Lehner, Manhattan

Even Cooler Than Cool
I enjoyed Adam Sternbergh’s article about community development in Jersey City [“If You Lived Here, You’d Be Cool Right Now,” December 11]. I have lived in most of the neighborhoods Sternbergh discussed, and I want to say that the best part of Jersey City is still to be discovered: a charming, hidden neighborhood called Hamilton Park. It is a hybrid of Gramercy Park and Park Slope. I have worked and lived there for nearly six years, after moving from Williamsburg to be closer to the café I’d opened on the corner of the park. I’m here to stay.
—Tim Smith, Jersey City, N.J.

The Naughty Diarist
I was transfixed by the elegance of Alex Halberstadt’s writing [“Culture: The Talented Playboy,” December 11], which had me ready to run out and buy a copy of Frederick Seidel’s latest book. But then I got to Seidel’s unnecessary quote about older women. Puh-lease! I’m sure the youngsters he’s coaxing into bed aren’t quite as turned on by him as they are by his money and famous friends. Who’s he planning to turn to when those enticements fail?
—Dawn Shurmaitis, Weehawken, N.J.

December 18, 2006