Just Not Enough: How Hustle Culture Infected My Brain

Now into the month of September, the state of the world has been severely altered for quite some time. At the start of this all though, so many influencers and celebrities were encouraging this period of time to think, create and do what you have always wanted. I was practically bombarded with this message, which, though I’m sure it came from a place of good intentions, planted this bug in my brain. I just had to be productive. 

I took this notion and went full force. I have always been an earring junkie, so I started creating pom-pom earrings. I would use all my spare time from my summer classes to sit and create pom-poms. I would make them until I had “yarn burn” on my fingers. Frequently, when I was just about done with a pair, they would, for absolutely no reason, just completely fall apart. This often made me feel incredibly frustrated, more than was warranted looking back.

Variety of Pom-pom earrings dangling from a cardboard box Original photo by Alana Torres

My brain though had been telling me to power through and so I did, eventually picking up making shrink plastic earrings as well. At this point, I had pretty much set in my mind that I wanted to sell what I was making and turn it into a profit. Shrink plastic seemed great! I had found a medium that was relatively cheap, gave me a lot of creative freedom and I enjoyed it. But yet again, I would get frustrated and was unnecessarily upset when my sharpie would smudge on the paper or when the pieces didn’t cook just right. Despite this clear internal pushback, I kept going. I ended up creating a shop called Adored By Alana. I posted regularly on my socials and prepared to sell my first drop. 

The day came and I was met with a lot of love and support that I am still so grateful for. Despite this support, I was still feeling off because some of the earrings I had put so much time and effort into weren’t as well-received as I thought they would be. It just felt personal. Fast forward a few months into the creation of my shop and I have had 40+ sales from people all around the U.S. I even have almost 500 followers on an account that didn’t exist until this July! Still though, things just weren’t quite right, but I didn’t listen to what my feelings were telling me. I worked harder than I ever have before all the months leading up to Aug. which then meant time to balance school and this new side hustle I had created for myself. I finished up the last few orders and put my shop on vacation.

 I moved into my very first apartment and created a space for all my craft goodies to go and prepared as much as I could for the new semester. The first week came and went, no worries there! The second week though was a different story. I fell into this slump. I was just struggling to balance my asynchronous schedule. I was creating new designs for my shop and posting as much as I could to keep my followers engaged. But I just got up one day and felt so completely miserable. Being back in Tallahassee, I couldn’t help but be aware of how different things were. I used to get up early, go to my classes, study in Strozier in-between or meet friends and get food. That schedule and that style are what I thrived in. I feel the most productive and fabulous being on the go and putting in the work. Quite frankly, I love being busy. But now I was stuck in my room for hours a day, only leaving to get food and water. Luckily, I live with some of those previously mentioned friends but we’re all in the same position. We all are flooded with our schedules and have to keep up now with less structure. I began to yearn for even the most mundane things I used to do.

Woman laying down on a couch covered in a blanket. Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

While mindlessly scrolling on my phone during one of my “study breaks”, (spoiler alert: I was getting practically nothing done so it was just me procrastinating), I had finally come up with the answer to the question that had been bouncing around my brain: Why so many months into this mess why was I now consumed with how life had been and how much I deeply missed it? I had literally not allowed myself to feel the shift in the world because I had told myself that in doing that, I would be wasting what everyone was telling me was precious time to create and build. All the posts I had seen in March about being productive through what we thought would maybe be a two-month thing had infected my brain for this entire period of time. It was this hustle culture that had taught me that yeah sure your feelings matter but not when they distract you from what you “should be” doing. I realized just how wrong that was. That it was completely ok to shift what you usually had done and allow yourself to be lazy on occasion. You don’t have to be productive 24/7, especially not when you are living through what are practically unprecedented times. Your feelings are valid. You can just be upset sometimes and not even see the upside to what seems like just more time to create. Now taking this realization to heart, I give myself the time I need. If some days I can barely get my schoolwork done, much less work on my small business, that is okay. Don’t let toxic hustle culture infect your brain the way I let it infect mine. Be kind to yourself during this time and only create when you really feel the desire to. You got this. 

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