The Hustle Mentality Is Toxic

[Disclaimer: I fully recognize that this statement comes from a place of privilege, and that it is not accessible to everyone to be able to think and/or live this way.]


"Coffee. Messy bun. Get shit done."

"Rise and Grind."

"Sleep is for the weak."

"You won't get much done if you only work on the days you feel good."

I've lived by sentiments such as these for over four years while trying to get my degree. Now, it's finals week. Summer is breathing down my neck. I'm graduating. Since I was seventeen going to community college, endless hours have been spent indoors, at my desk or in bed, typing and researching my life away. So much stress about commuter traffic and getting the printers to work in the computer lab, finding time to eat, going straight to work after class until everyone else is asleep, and then fitting in homework afterwards until there's a few hours until sunrise - in other words, the hustle life.

Generally, this is the effort expected from college students. We pay to be there, we better be ready to put in the real work and leave laziness behind. I get it, degrees shouldn't be easy. There's a level of commitment and dedication needed to get to the end, but we give up so much of ourselves in the process.

There's a toxic underbelly to the "hustle" and "grind" mentality. The ideology of it is to go, go, go, and don't stop. To work yourself to the fullest potential. If you're not hustling, then what are you doing? The dreams won't work until you do, and every day that's spent not working towards them is a day wasted. That's too familiar to me. The dread of unproductivity is constant as a college student. The push and pull between what we want and what we should want moment-to-moment can be difficult to manage day after day. Much of what we go through goes unnoticed, and sometimes we find ourselves having a meltdown in the middle of the night because we don't know if we have the strength to finish out the week.

Boohoo, right? Get back in the game and keep going. Like I said, I understand some of that fire and urgency is required to get the degree, the certification, the job, the internship, the opportunity. Don't get me wrong. Hard work is imperative to succeed. Doing things we don't love, or sometimes hate, in order to make something easier down the road is often necessary. I believe a strong work ethic is what divides excellence from mediocre. Also, I love money. I understand the determination, I have the determination, to make a life for myself that brings me success.

But as I look ahead to the coming summer and the year that will follow it, I have little desire to run full-speed towards that future. I want to enjoy right now. As cheesy as it sounds, I want to make memories, see my friends, travel - and work towards my long-term goals as I go. This is a chance to slow down, to take everything in, and I want to take advantage of that. Young millennial and Generation Z students and workers are often criticized for not wanting to put as much effort in. Millennials have been asserted as the most culturally diverse and highly educated generation to date, and I suspect they will be surpassed by Generation Z and Generation Alpha in the years to come. We're dubbed "snowflakes" as if we're overly-sensitive, overly-emotional, and too entitled to put in the hard work. I just think we're the most honest. We're more open about mental health and emotional safety than our parents' generations were. But we know what it is to work hard, to put in the time, the effort.

I'm here to say it's okay to rest. It's valid to be exhausted and take a break. A short one, a long one, on the way to your biggest dreams. It's valid to not even know what your dreams are. It's okay to just live inside every moment. It's valid and okay to not care about "grinding" every day, and go to the beach instead, or sit in a park and just breathe, or stay in bed a little longer.

Being busy all the time doesn't equate to productivity. Take your time. Do some deep breathing. Consider what interests you outside of work and school, and delegate space for it. Check on your friends. Get a dog, or a plant, take care of them. Enjoy your life on the way to the top, because every second passed is time you cannot get back.

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