By: Patricia Yap
Back in high school, I was the kind of person you would associate with…I don’t know…essentially nothing (Ha!) Why? Well, compared to my batchmates, I wasn’t one to run for a classroom position, join an organization (that wasn’t required), or volunteer for a school competition. In short, I wasn’t active in anything else other than academics.
As a young person barely passing her minor age, I was content with passing all my homework on time and acing quizzes so much so that every day would just be a boring routine of going to school to study and commuting home to finish what I hadn’t before 4PM. Come college however, I went on overdrive.
When I entered college, I told myself I would just live the way I used to in highschool and survive through the four years of my stay.
Shockingly, my blockmates and every other person I met wasn’t like me. They were theater actors, school models, debaters, organization presidents, members of international dance teams, and one was even a competitive surfer. I mean, they weren’t just excelling in school but also in activities outside of it, and what’s more, were constantly looking for something more to do! It’s mad!
So naturally, I felt intimidated, full of fear, and insecure—worst of all, frightened. It was as if at this moment of stepping into college, I started feeling overly left behind and practically useless. What future awaits me if I stay like this, I asked myself mentally as I stared blankly towards the campus church’s ceiling.
I decided then that enough was enough. These four years moving forward, I will join as many organizations as possible, volunteer in leading activities, and burn my eyebrows off just to keep up. And so I did. I joined organizations and tried countless new experiences but what really set me apart was my constant hunt and application for internships.
I thought to myself, well if all of this isn’t enough to keep up with my peers, then I might as well get an early start by interning, right? Well, little did I know that I was already falling and buying into a toxic lifestyle and mindset known as “hustle culture”. Because by the time you read this, I’ve just finished my fourth internship in a year and a half, and I’m probably on my way to the next after a few weeks.
Frankly speaking, hustle culture is the phenomenon where people (mostly millennials and gen z) unconsciously believe that in order to achieve better careers and an overall happier life in the future, one has to furiously grind every single day; never slowing down and always ready to take on more work to prove one’s capabilities and self-worth.
It’s basically a masochistic work ethic. It’s masked to be “heroic” by others, especially the doer of the action which fails to recognize their sleep deprived nights, mentally exhausted minds, and overworked bodies.
Just look back on how you spent your day last night. You probably woke up at 8AM, took a quick little shower and ate your slice of bread (you’d be lucky to even eat). You finished by 8:45AM, and suddenly you’re in front of your laptop until you swing your head over to the clock and it’s 9:30PM. It’s long past work hours and you’re still here.
Productive, yey! But is it really worth it? Are you even happy with what you’re doing anymore or do you even feel like there’s purpose in what you’re hustling over each day?
Honestly, for me, I’m not sure anymore because you know what’s the ironic and unfortunate truth? You and I both CLEARLY know we’re living in the hustle culture, but we don’t want to stop because it’s scary. It’s oh so frighteningly scary to think that one unproductive day can leave you behind everybody else and affect you 5 years from now.
Hustle culture is inescapable but even more so is the fear of slowing down.
As someone who’s now in her early 20s, there’s just this looming feeling of dread that chronically burns a hole through your head, as if carving the words “DON’T STOP”.
According to Alice Boyes, PhD. and author of The Anxiety Toolkit and The Healthy Mind Toolkit, because of the many opportunities out there, it’s easy to feel that at any moment, one can miss out on an opportunity that trips them into failure.
However, absorb her statement again and look for the keyword there. I’ll give you a moment. Good? It’s “many”. It is in this recognition that we realize that while there are a lot of opportunities that we can miss from not hustling or being the first in line, there are equally a lot more to share and fall back on.
I mean, if you really think about it and stop comparing yourself to people your age that have “accomplished so much”, you would see that there are people who reached their dreams and happiest lives way WAY later in life. And there are even those that do not reach what they thought they wanted but are genuinely happy with the life they have now, right? I see you nodding.
Although easier said than done, it’s vital for each of us, myself included, to remember that we cannot be everyone all at once, and that we cannot handle everything in one sitting. Think of a buffet, there’s so much you want to try because come on, wow, the opportunity to try this many dishes is just here for this given time only, but sadly you can’t eat it all. It’s impossible to eat everything because we have our limits, and so do our mind and bodies. I know it’s a simple image (and probably made you hungry) but it’s effective and true.
Hustling causes imbalance, and the hustle culture is a lie we’re told to believe on the daily. So, I guess what I’m trying to say throughout this whole ramble is that it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to give yourself time to rest, be unproductive, and be a little more kinder to yourself.
Because even if we hustle now, none of us can ever be truly sure of what the future holds.
I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy, because I know all too well that it will never be. It’s inescapable, remember?
There will be days when you mindlessly scroll through social media and see one of your peers land a new job or climb up a position with a fat cheque in hand, and you’re gonna feel like (I can’t say the word here) poop. There will be days when you’ll feel lost at 3AM drowning in your uncertainties, and that’s okay. You’re human, I’m human, we all are.
And to end, I do not wish to preach what I don’t follow, so I will strive my best to take some time for myself before I jump into the next hustle. For now, I’m gonna take life slowly by the hand, remind myself that I grow at my own pace and I’m not everybody else, and I hope you do too.
Photos from Freepik