Columns, Opinion, Price of Existence

Hustle culture is taking its victims younger and younger | Price of Existence

I’ve heard “the grind never stops” countless times over the past few years. Every time, it becomes more and more ironic.

I’ve also heard “I’m fine, just tired” from so many friends since the semester began. Even on good days when there isn’t as much work to be done, there’s more relief that there’s nothing to do than there is genuine happiness. I’ve wondered why I felt this way, knowing that so many others are experiencing similar ups and downs. 

The literal idea of “the grind” implies that something is being steadily crushed by consistent pressure, but it’s not like the concept is new. The grind has been characterized by slow, monotonous work that never ends. It is a machine with gears that do not quite fit right.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

The real problem is where this all begins. It starts with a child being told that they must grow up to become something. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it sets a standard for years to come. As children mature and become fully aware of societal expectations, the options become clear: Enter the workforce and become a productive member of society, or be an abject failure.

I’m always struck by how little I feel like I’ve accomplished after a full day of class, work and homework. I might not be failing at anything, but it seems like I miscalculated somewhere. If there’s anything I feel like, it definitely isn’t a productive member of society.

Being “productive” and “contributing” to the world involves making money. For some, the equation for productivity includes college. But college nearly always requires considerable money upfront, and if the upfront cost is unaffordable, debt comes next, hoping everything will pay itself off in the end. College is an investment — only if you can afford it. 

We are all living our “prime years” under the shadow of financial success. If we work hard enough, we will one day make it — but to where? Are we working for ourselves or a society that puts our worth in how much we can give away? Being a productive member of society means spending, saving, borrowing, loaning and worship of money. It is the basis of hustle culture.

The harder you work, the more valuable you can be. The bottom line is always money — more specifically, figuring out how to multiply it over as short a time frame as possible. We are told that with luck, we, too, can work hard enough to get that next big paycheck and impress the boss with our unwavering work ethic.

It’s clear that the foundation of this belief is being worn away by the ever-turning gears of the machine. Why should anyone working to survive feel like they owe their lives to a job that places monetary value on their worth? This is why students feel the burden of the future weighing down on them. We are already tired from the work that we know is preparation for this next phase of life.

Hustle culture wants to look forward into a nebulous future where we have all that we want, and tries to convince everyone that if they continue on a path of perpetual exhaustion, they will reach the end of the path where happiness is.

Are we all desperately trying to achieve a life that inevitably burns us down? I used to think the constant work mentality was a badge to be worn with honor. Always working? Praise-worthy. Taking on every opportunity coming my way? I’d sooner roll over and let someone else have it. Just maintaining that idea is taxing.

Basing our lives on the idea of doing more, being more, gaining more, is turning all of us into people who greet each other with “I’m good, but tired” every single day. Why does every emotion have to come with depletion?

There are so many things I want to do in this life. But I, and so many others, never allow ourselves to simply be.

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One Comment

  1. Woah I’ve never resonated so much with any article. Very well put.