Do We Actually Love to Work?

Last October, I penned an article called “Why I Love Being Busy.” While I don’t think I’ve achieved full workaholic status, I’m definitely one of those people who push that kind of lifestyle. Ever since high school, for example, I’ve had a studyblr account (a Tumblr dedicated to studying, academics, and motivation) with 10,000-ish followers, filled exclusively with pretty Insta-worthy pictures of notes, studying tips, self-care reminders, and the occasional meme. I’m a double major with a minor on the pre-law track. I’m an active member of Her Campus and the PR committee of CAS Student Government. I have a job as a photographer/page designer on the BU Yearbook staff (I know right, BU has a yearbook?!), and I’m looking for another quick part-time job to balance my unsustainable spending habits.

Even my favorite quote, an Elaine Welteroth number, pushes an intense go-getter attitude.

Photo Credit: Vogue and Coffee (Tumblr)

I’ve been conditioned with the idea that if my schedule is wide open — if I can afford to lounge around watching reruns of Scandal and binging One Tree Hill, I’m doing something wrong. That’s not to say I don’t do it, I just compensate by outlining psych chapters until 2 in the morning.

For the last three weeks, I’ve had an exam every week. The week of spring break, right before I drag all my suitcases and bags downstairs, I have another PS251 exam. I don’t have any major tests/projects this upcoming week, but I do have a paper, specifically a “long essay” (compared to a “brief essay,” as if 1,000 words can be called brief) to keep me busy this week.

Photo Credit: CW 0630 (Tumblr)

I want to say I like it like that. There’s something fulfilling about it — about reading 80-or-so pages a night, completing problem sets, studying, and trying to exert the self-control and discipline to avoid Hulu and Netflix until the weekend. It’s so rewarding to get an A on an exam after studying your butt off for it (an A- elicits a different feeling for me, but that’s a topic to unpack another time).

The other day, however, when I was scrolling through my Pocket feed (as I do regularly), a New York Times article caught my attention (and not just because I’m a loyal NYT reader). Erin Griffith’s article “Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” jumped out to me as an attack.

Photo Credit: Stevie Buckley (Twitter)

It’s a good read — it explores the hustle culture and the companies that foster this lifestyle (ranging from Nike to Tesla), as well as complements the wildly popular Buzzfeed piece on millenial burnout. Griffith makes good points — imagining companies that carve cucumbers so they encourage you to only stop working when you’re done, not when you’re tired as “grim and exploitative” — but it was a bleak and grim read.

It’s hard for me to completely agree with her, despite how logical her points are. While I’m not “lusty” for Mondays and say T.G.I.M. instead of T.G.I.F., I’m definitely a rise-and-grinder. My life is all about early mornings, late nights, a daily dose of caffeine, and hours on end chained to my desk, or the library. The content I create for social media revolves around this — I post notes that took me half the day and left me exhausted at 7 p.m., with positive, smiley captions that encourage that same kind of grind.

Photo Credit: Tara Jones (Pinterest) 

If anything, the NYT article is a little too real for me. While claims like “it’s cultist ... to convince workers to buy into their own exploitation” are easy to dismiss, others aren’t.

“Spending time on anything that’s nonwork related has become a reason to feel guilty,” Griffith adds, as she frames the millennial “posing as a rise-and-grinder” as a defense mechanism. The scariest part of the argument is that it’s centered around young adults with careers, not college students. Coupled with the recurring idea that ambition is a lifestyle, not a means to an end, the future seems bleak. I always thought that my hard work now would set me up for an easier life as we move forward, but the fact that descriptions of young professional culture sound so similar to my current situation terrifies me a little.

Photo Credit: The Meme Economy (Pinterest)

I had never really questioned if I actually loved the life I said I did. Being busy seems rewarding to me, and not having anything due makes me feel like a slacker. I used to be an insomniac, but being able to sleep right away after getting underneath my covers after a day of hard work and studying just feels so good.

 

I’ll keep running my studyblr and being weirdly happy about my constant cycle of to-do lists, but Griffith’s words will stay in the back of my head: is this a defense mechanism? Am I pretending to love to work? Are you?

 

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