Edited By: Malavika Suresh
The bags under my eyes start to converse with the piling deadlines of my end-sems. I can barely tell one day apart from another and everything mixes into this blur of keyboard typing, scribbled notes, caffeine and chaos. Wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat. Taking a break feels like a luxury. Sometimes the automaticity with which everything blurs and creates this heaviness scares me, and in my form of “productive escapism,” I wander down the rabbit hole of what is called the “StudyGram” community on Instagram.
The pretty pages are filled with aesthetic note-taking, videos filled with ASMR keyboard typing sounds, and pictures filled with beautiful study table set-ups. Everything looks how I would ideally want it to be like. I can only hope I have half the skills they do. I glance at the pile of messy papers on my desk and start to feel grossly inadequate. As I watch reels of people documenting their 10-hour study sessions, the flaming inadequacy starts to fan itself even further.
“Why can’t I be more productive?”, my inner monologue, mutters, never leaving me alone. Maybe if I nap a little less, or perhaps, stop being on my phone so much.
I glance upon video on video, of people’s daily routines that just seem perfect. A world of pastel highlighters and iced coffee, far far away from what seems to be my reality. It seems like an alternate dimension or universe altogether, away from the cruelty of burnout, or the ubiquity of distractions that make it impossible to even get one task off my to-do list. I start to feel like a fraud. Do they never have days where it is just hard to get out of bed? Or struggle to muster up the courage to even switch on your video in class? Do they ever feel like they’re spiralling because of one assignment that they can’t seem to get right? Or have a breakdown because of their workload? Am I alone in feeling this way? Is it even okay to just feel weighed down by how tired you feel?
The more I scroll, the more I feel alone in my experience of tiredness becoming a weight that fills my chest every time I come near the due date. More importantly, the guilt of not feeling like I am supposed to, adds onto this weight, a ball and chain in itself. Social comparison is a boon and a bane. By that, I mean that it motivates you to push yourself, but also has the potential to arrest you to a feeling of lack, right where you are. You feel stuck.
The callousness of it all is often hidden behind a beautiful mirage, that only got broken recently when a friend asked me when I last slept and ate properly. I realized I couldn’t remember.
It dawned on me- I had fallen prey to the very “hustle culture” I swore I’d never be a part of, and it inducted me slowly, without my even realizing it. I got arrested by a cycle of constantly feeling the urge to be productive, and shaming myself for not being that. In wanting to squeeze something out of every second of every day, an anxious heart started beating against my chest due to the pressure of my deadlines. Seeping slowly into my life, productivity was all I could think about until I found myself in a never-ending hamster wheel of sorts. In seeing and modelling this unreachable pedestal that placed productivity as paramount, I lost out on so much more. From failed attempts at aesthetic note-taking to wanting to always finish everything perfectly, the glorification of “hustling” that was placed in my feed started to become worrying.
Though it still takes a lot for me to put work away from the recesses of my mind, unfollowing the pages has helped a little bit. I don’t feel a compulsion to push myself anymore. Taking a break feels like a break. Though my feed now is absent of beautiful shots of keyboards and iced coffee, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I think it’s a trade-off that is supremely worth it.