As I finally look up from my laptop, I realize it’s dinnertime. Working non-stop for hours on end, my family has become quite used to me eating late, sleeping late and putting my hobbies, interests and even my friends aside so that I can achieve academic progress. Obviously, it’s very difficult to criticize oneself. Yet, the fact of the matter remains: my lifestyle is becoming close to toxic.
Hustle culture is the glorification of constantly working and the obsession with overachieving. To push ourselves beyond the threshold, to just keep at it till we reach maximum capacity. There is this urge to fulfill all your dreams and goals at dizzying speed, faster than the rest, to keep up with what you see on social media. This culture is potentially creating workaholics out of our generation without us even realizing it because of how omnipresent it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to stop working hard. To achieve anything in life, it’s quite important to put in the effort, to stay determined and persistent. However, the line between burnout and healthy work attitudes is becoming blurry.
It wasn’t always like this. Back in high school, I had a well-balanced schedule. There was a crystal clear distinction between school life and home life. I had time to fit in an hour of exercising and watching an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine after returning. Sipping on coffee, I would spend the rest of the day finishing schoolwork. Weekends were slower – a quick family outing and getting ahead of the upcoming week’s targets. Jumping out of high school and landing smack dab in the middle of a pandemic was far from what I had imagined college life to be. I remember feeling overwhelmed from having excessive time at hand but nothing to do. All around me, people picked up on their unfinished business, their neglected hobbies, their side hustles. They seemed to create magic out of dreadful moments and the Instagram stories got to me fast.
I pushed myself to learn an instrument, pick up a foreign language or meet someone online. Nothing worked for me till college started remotely in the Fall. The toil of working comforted me, made me feel like I was finally earning the nights my head hit the pillow. The burnouts came, but there was also the addictive validation of being able to work hard and say that “yes, I am doing something worthwhile.” I compromised not just quality for quantity but my mental health too. It has taken me a good amount of time to realize this is not okay.
Like hamsters, wishing to run faster than the wheels of time, we embrace this toxicity in the name of success. We have let the blurry lines take over and our health dangle on thin strings. We have equated social media to be gospel truth instead of a highlight, the filtered reality. I’m slowly learning how to break away from this mindset. How to stop and take a pause. To take care of myself, to listen to my body, my heart and my mind. To work in tandem with my purpose instead of being addicted to keeping busy. To realize that purpose without making it my entire life. To invite new things, fresher perspectives and healthier habits. To make time for those who truly love me and to truly love myself, even the days I feel unproductive.
“Two steps forward, one step back is still one step forward.” – Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine