Edited by Nidhi Munot
During my summer break, I was confronted with an unforeseen personal emergency; my mother had gotten extremely sick and was battling the war between life and death. I was forced to withdraw from my classes and drop all my internship commitments. During my time at the hospital, amidst my endless chores, I never once thought that I was wasting my time. The thought that I could be studying for my courses, writing research papers, or “hustling,” as we like to call it these days, instead of taking care of my mother, did not cross my mind. However, by the end of summer break, that changed.
By the Almighty’s grace and my mother’s sheer perseverance, she made a complete recovery. After three long months, we came home—but my relief lasted only about three days before I was consumed by an immense amount of guilt. Guilt for not doing several internships, for not completing multiple courses, for not using my time “productively”. The countless unread internship emails became an indicator of the multitude of missed opportunities to enhance my resume. I felt useless. It almost felt like I would never be able to get past the three month break I had to take from my academic life. The numerous LinkedIn notifications about my peers’ work experience only fuelled my anxiety.
This myriad of emotions quickly transformed into anger. I was angry at everyone and everything, but mostly with myself for not wearing myself out by focusing on my academics when my life was quite literally in a whirlwind. Thanks to my sensible friends and my limited sanity, it didn’t take long for me to realise I was being irrational.
Hustle culture glorifies toxic work habits wherein a person is made to believe that they can only be successful if they spend every possible waking moment immersed in their work. The culture of constantly drowning ourselves in activities that only translate to another line in our resumes has stripped the importance of qualitative achievements in our lives. My summer had taught me how to be more empathetic, resilient, resourceful, communicative and strong; those were valuable lessons in their own right. I had grown as a person, and it wasn’t through an internship or a summer project but by spending sleepless nights by my mother’s bedside. What needs to be realised is that not everyone can afford to hustle and not everyone needs to hustle, and that is absolutely okay.
I believe with utmost certainty that “hustling” is the most unsustainable work ethic you can cultivate. In the long run, the only things you will remember will be the times you could’ve met your friend or spent more time with your family but you didn’t because you chose to prioritise work more than was necessary. At that time, your laurels wouldn’t be enough to make you feel less guilty about all the quality time you lost.
This is a reminder to prioritize yourself. By yourself, I mean your feelings and comfort, not your appearance on paper. Trust the process of life and embrace the changes that it brings in you with open arms.