An article came out recently in the New York Times titled, “Why are Youth Pretending to Love Work?” It’s about the hustle and grind culture that persists among many millennials. But 20-somethings do not own this culture. Hustling and grinding yourself into an exhausted pulp to achieve and “be” something is a mindset that has existed in our society for a long time. Maybe the difference is that this crop of 20-somethings feels prompted to publicize their grind, incentivized by a population that largely relies on “likes” for validation who maybe never stop to ask the hustler, “But are you ok?”, or even herself, “Am I ok?” Nonstop hustling and grinding, particularly for the sake of being able to tout the badge of burnout isn’t fun or healthy. And it doesn’t feed our higher selves.
I’m all for working hard. It finally dawned me some years ago that most have to work really hard to not only “make it”, but these days, also just to survive. But the hustle and grind culture that many of us have bought into, at least to some degree, now feels, to me, passe’. It was cute when I was starting out and worked my ass off to get ahead. But the things is…I never did. My efforts in the corporate sector were rarely if ever really appreciated and I never made it past entry level roles. Where my hustle paid off was in becoming a freelance writer.
My late nights blogging and literally pounding the pavement in New York going to events and sending out inquiries to get interviews got results. And I’m really proud of that. My work as a blogger allowed me to transition into a paid writer getting published in some of my favorite outlets. But I think what’s worth noting here was that I wasn’t burnt out pretending to feel amazing. I genuinely loved it. I wasn’t even burnt out because I was working from my passion for pop culture. So essentially, it wasn’t a hustle. I was just working hard. My passion for what I like to write about has shifted but I still love writing. It’s an intrinsic part of my life. And that brings me to the question: “If you don’t even enjoy what you’re doing what’s the point?”
We all have bills, and sometimes the grind is necessary; to get the gig, to keep the gig, to get the next one, to put food on the table and keep the lights on. I get that. But the constant race just to say you’re running doesn’t feel worth it – not to me anyway.
Working hard and hustling are two different things to me. One is a work ethic and the other feels like what happens in crisis mode. It’s also a challenging cultural expectation that can often feel competitive and therefore essentially destructive and depleting. I’m not done working hard, but I really don’t want to hustle and grind anymore. I don’t even like how those words sound. I don’t want to have to “hustle” to meet basic needs. I don’t want to “hustle” to get opportunities. I don’t want to “hustle for my worth”, the term Viola Davis has aptly coined.
I like working hard, especially at the things I love. But I don’t want to feel like I have to work myself ragged to prove my fortitude to others. I’m tired of that race. I hope for a continued cultural shift where we examine what we’ve deemed “normal” and reevaluate based on what’s healthy for us and what feels good. We need to be intentional about creating our own well being.
So if you’re hustling and grinding just for the sake of being in the race, know that you can drop out any time.