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Lithium The toxicity of hustle culture

Dec. 17, 2019
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It’s 11:08 PM on a Saturday night. I am 22 years old, and I am partaking in a familiar weekend evening pastime: looking for second jobs on Indeed.com. A quick look at my bank account has prompted me into a state of action, a state of constantly thinking that something must be wrong with me because I’m 22 years old and working my ass off and I can barely make ends meet most of the time. I’m 22 years old and I walk two miles in beat-up boots to job interviews and to the grocery store to save a few bucks on Ubers. I’m 22 years old and I spend 20 hours a day working myself to the bone and on the brink of exhaustion—and still, I don’t feel like I’m “grinding” or “hustling” enough, because if I were, I’d see a bigger number on the screen when I open the Chase app on my phone. Right?

I work at a popular local Mediterranean restaurant a few nights a week, and nearly every other employee at this restaurant has a second or even third job or stream on top of going to college. Servers are constantly scrambling to pick up extra shifts to make 40-hour weeks, competing with each other to get as close to overtime as they humanly can. Within my circle of friends, even the ones with degrees and well-paying 9-to-5 jobs are looking to pick up weekend serving jobs, sales jobs, or a side hustle. No matter who I hang out with or where we go, the topic inevitably switches to our jobs and our schedules and how much more we can put on our plate before we physically and mentally break ourselves. 

The glorification of hustle culture has turned into a downright dangerous phenomenon. At first, I embraced the culture of “being on my grind” that capitalism so cleverly created. I touted notebooks with the phrase “Girlboss” emblazoned on the front. I bragged about working two, sometimes even three, jobs at a time while in college, flaunting my under-eye bags as an accessory, permanently sporting a uniform of leggings and a messy bun when outside of work because, well, I didn’t have time to do much else for my appearance. 

I wanted to be the girl who did everything and did it well. I saw others on social media who looked like they were doing it all—balancing multiple jobs, internships, relationships, and succeeding. But I’ve learned that overloading my plate agitates my ADHD so much that I have no idea what to focus on or what task to prioritize, and, you guessed it, I end up having an anxiety attack, or even a small manic episode. In the act of trying to prioritize everything, I forgot one crucial thing: prioritizing my own health, needs, and self-care.

We need to stop the glorification of being overworked and exhausted, and we need to stop competing with each other to see who’s busiest. It’s awesome to be hard-working and passionate about your craft, your job, your education—but “productivity” is a capitalist lie that has tired us out and worked us to death, and for what? I am 22 years old, and all I want is to be happy and financially secure enough to provide for myself and the people I hold close to my heart. So for now, I’m logging out of Indeed.com. I’m going to savor my winter break and spend my free time looking at Christmas lights with my boyfriend, doing face masks, or honestly, sleeping a full eight hours—something I haven’t done in a very long time! Of course I’ll still stay dedicated to my long-term goals, but I won’t let myself give into the toxicity that “busy” culture and capitalism have created. Sometimes it’s okay to rest. Your body will thank you—trust me.