My most vivid memory from an otherwise blur of a fall semester is my professor telling our class that he had been stalked multiple times in his life. One time it had gone on for months, culminating in him waking up one morning with the stalker leaning over his bed.
Scary, isn’t it?
In a less tangible but just as frightening way, hustle culture — or rather “burnout culture”— creeps into our lives, infiltrating until we too are trapped and left with endless internal nagging.
Hustle culture is feeling tired of being tired and guilty because you feel tired all the time.
Here in North America, the grind starts young.
I saw a post on Instagram not long ago by an American influencer proudly announcing that her kids are required to pay for half of their own extracurricular activities. While helping kids develop a good work ethic is important, surely eight-year-olds shouldn’t have to slave away for hours every week to have some guitar lessons?
This hustle culture and “living to work” mindset is rampant throughout North America, and when someone wants out… they feel guilty. They feel guilty because from the time they were eight years old, they have been drilled to “work work work work work,” in the words of Rihanna.
Staying home from work or school if you are sick should be an absolute no-brainer, but then if you do stay home, there is the guilt of putting yourself first and the temptation to grab your laptop and at least be “productive” for part of the day. And even though you know you (probably) won’t get fired, you know your boss is not impressed.
Hustle culture is also perpetuated by social media, where 18-year-old influencers post promises of early retirement, luxury vacations, and designer clothes if you only just hustle.
If you are a university student with a full course load or a working professional with a weekend side hustle, you are CELEBRATED. No wonder they wear their busyness like a badge of honour.
“Look everyone, I can function while working myself to death!”
The keyword here is “function.” Functioning isn’t living.
A recent article published by Insider discusses a study showing that many European countries are introducing the four-day workweek, which has increased revenue by eight per cent and is a “resounding success on virtually every dimension.”
The four-day workweek is just one example of “working to live” instead of vice versa. I don’t know about you, but when I have time to relax and do the things I enjoy, as well as essential errands and chores, I am more productive and way more focused during the week.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think having a good work ethic, putting time and effort into your job/school, and achieving goals is a wonderful thing, just not at the expense of burning out by the time you are 30.
This is a societal problem, and I don’t know the solution, but what I do know is we need to at least acknowledge the toxicity of “the grind” before we hit “The Great Mental Breakdown of North America.”
If we continue on like this, we will wake up hoping it’s a stalker looming above our beds and not the dread of having to work another 14-hour day.
Graphics: Brett Boyd