2021 began with expectations, promise and potential. I made a choice to open up my heart. Be more transparent with the Tribe about my dreams, my goals for the work we're doing at THU, and the struggles along the way. And making a difference means being human: messy, vulnerable, weird and ever changing. So, I want to tell you about my burnout this year.
Looking back, the burnout was not all that surprising. We were still in a pandemic. There was a lot of uncertainty about whether we'd be able to host the Main Event. The question dragged on until April, leaving less time to plan than ever before. But we built it, and welcomed the Tribe home, returning to Tróia. 4 years ago, we left this place because I didn't feel it had anything new to give…I was wrong. Tróia gave me more happy memories this year than I could have ever expected. It felt like a miracle. But miracles never come easy.
See, every year has been a struggle financially for THU. My dreams, what I want to do, what I believe needs to be done, keeps getting bigger and bigger. And year after year, my team pulls off the impossible. But this has a price. We need funding, sponsorships, and people who will invest in our vision. The thing is, I believe protecting the Tribe is the most important thing, even if it means losing money. So, we need to take risks, try new things, evolve and innovate. But I’m constantly being told this is a naive perspective, that I’m doing things wrong.
Over time, these doubting voices have worn away at me. Maybe what people were saying was true, that I was stunting the Tribe’s growth? Maybe I was too stubborn in my vision? Maybe I was the problem? So, eventually, without even noticing it, the last few years I started to give up, pull away and disconnect. My focus shifted to other things, initiatives close to my heart, that I've been working to get off the ground for years, but still, distractions to keep me from confronting the real elephant in the room: I was burnt out.
It took a good friend, Nadia Ruiz, to notice that something was off with me at THU 2021. She asked me if I was happy, and I answered honestly: no. I wasn't happy with THU anymore.This truth hurt, and I wanted to understand why I was feeling this way.
I’d always dreamed that the THU would be a utopia. A place where we reaffirm that there are a lot of good people in this world who want to help each other by sharing ideas, experience, knowledge, inspiration and opportunities. Kindred spirits, who together, can help create a better world. And yet, there I was at the Main Event, surrounded by it, but I was numb, having spent most of 2021 distracted on other projects. Thanks to Nadia, I started digging into what was going on, rediscovering my values and what motivates me. The two things I realized: 1) I now know that I'm important, no matter what the naysaying voices tell me. 2) The Tribe needs me as much as I need them.
I was suffering from burnout, and I wasn’t happy. The first and most important step for me was accepting it. Then, wanting to change it. Then, putting in the effort to start the healing process. I'll be honest, every day is a challenge. This journey is super hard, and it's still a work in progress. But I want to share this experience, so others know they're not alone, that there's nothing to be ashamed of, that there is always hope, and that it's important to surround yourself with the right people. For me, finding answers meant looking in, as well as looking out. I asked for help. Seeing a therapist opened up a flood of tears, realizations, and pain, but I'm in a much better place now. This has been a GOOD struggle, because nothing is more important than being happy. So, ask yourself…are you happy? If not, do you want to be? I want you to be. If you’re burnt out like I was, you need to change.
Back in Tróia, after my initial realization, the floodgates opened and I started to understand that so many of my recent negative reactions to situations and people had been fueled by my unhappiness. I also finally understood what THU is and the power it holds. That the Tribe doesn't have to grow exponentially to be impactful. What's most important is bringing together the right people, with the right mindset, and building a butterfly effect of good. I believe in our Tribe. Seeing your generosity, openness and kindness to each other, and seeing that spread as you return home to your countries, cities, groups, has always been my vision.
But I realized that this is what people don’t always understand about this vision: it's not short term, it’s exponential. The future I see for THU is so much bigger than most realize. When the naysayers tell me that what we're doing isn't financially sustainable, it's because they're not looking far enough ahead. We're still in the early stages, laying down a strong foundation. That sustainable, profitable, bright global future is still a ways out, but it's there. I trust that we're moving in the right direction. I trust my intuition and will continue to help artists, creators and those still just starting out, because protecting them is important. Putting my faith and focus on the well-being of the Tribe is the right approach, always. What we're doing is making a difference.
At the end of the day, 2021 was all about discovering. About becoming.
- André Luís