Last Updated on June 23, 2023 by ThoughtsStained
Oh do I miss blogging, friends. Hopefully, I’ll get into a new routine soon (her ever-consistent refrain) and be able to blog more! Today, though, I want to talk, once again, about something more personal; something that’s been on my brain quite a bit, the past few days. I want to talk about hustle culture. In particular, I want to look at how my relationship with work has changed, going in directions I didn’t think it would.
Let’s dive in.
I think there’s a few important contexts to frame this, before processing fully. The two main things are my work history and my financial status.
I started working when I was 14 years old. First, I got a job working concession for our local Parks and Recreations department, working at the pool and the baseball fields. I did that all throughout high school.
My senior year, I worked multiple jobs in restaurants, before going to college. In college, I got a job working as a Resident Assistant and then worked at the library at the same time. I also worked in various summer camps and short-term programs. Post college, I worked as an evening librarian assistant and then worked at Ross retail during the day. After four years of that (though only one year working at both jobs), I became an academic advisor. Within a year of that, I opened up my editorial freelance business.
Because I am going to be 31 this year. Since I was 14, I have worked multiple jobs at a time. That’s seventeen years of being unable to work only one job.
Financially, I’m still not stable. I’m certainly not thriving.
Obviously, all of the jobs I worked in high school were not a living wage. Hell, all of the service jobs I’ve ever worked haven’t been. The full-time work I’ve also had isn’t enough, either–because I wouldn’t need to work service jobs on top of it, if it was.
Granted, I’ve been able to live off of my full-time income. However, I worked at Ross for a year so I could save up to vacation abroad. After medical issues caused my credit card to skyrocket, I started freelance editing to try and get some of that paid off. ($3,000 down, only $5,000 more to go 🥲). Even though I’m taking an almost $5,000 paycut to escape my toxic job, I should be able to make my ends meet, bills wise.
If you include only bills. Only the things that must be paid, to survive. If my student loans do get cancelled. Otherwise, I get a $300 monthly bill tacked on again, with no end in sight. If I don’t do anything for pleasure. No traveling, no tattoos, no ordering takeout on low spoon days. It assumes no emergences and it makes the normal extra expenses–birthdays, vet visits, doctors appointments–painful.
I’m so stressed about finances that, when offered a potential teaching position, I almost took it. I considered trying to do three jobs: full-time university position, part-time teaching position and freelance editing. Luckily, my partner and friends talked me out of that, as I’m still recovering from burn out.
Friends, I am so, so tired. Hustle culture has made me so, so tired.
How Hustle Culture Broke Me
Growing up, I was always the “high achieving” one. The straight A student, the one who was super involved, the one who is now in therapy to deal with perfectionism. I have an unhealthy relationship with productivity, where I view my own value only in how productive I am; if I have anything less than 100% crossed off my large, daily to-do list, it’s considered a failure.
Again: I’m in therapy for this, so hopefully I can overcome this toxic mindset. But, growing up, the expectation was clear: go to college, work full-time and then rise the ranks of whatever it is, until you reach the top.
Reality has looked much different.
I’ve only ever moved laterally, in my (about to be) three full-time positions. Despite applying for promotions and managerial positions, I’ve never been promoted where that promotion resulted in more than a title change (i.e., a pay increase). For a while, I’ve considered that a failure.
Yet, as my new job start date looms, I find myself dreading it, when three weeks ago, I was in tears, so thankful to get this job. So, what changed?
I got a break.
Hustle Culture and Burn Out
You see, I burned up all my saved vacation time so I could take three weeks off between jobs. It hasn’t been an entire time of relaxation, either. I completed my last class for graduate school, an intense two-week workshop with 5+ hours of homework/class time a day for two weeks. I edited 50,000 words of my thesis, while also writing another 5,000 for a new short story.
But I also: slept in a natural rhythm and could experience slow mornings. I walked my dog every day and took long showers, complete with skincare. Even played a lot of Diablo IV and read a little (would have read more if not for, you know, Diablo IV). I was able to see friends and family more. My happiness skyrocketed.
Until this week.
This week, my last week before I have to go back to working a 8am-5pm job, I started to struggle to sleep again. I found myself returning to some of the depressive habits that has dominated the past few years of my life. For the first few days, I was confused. What had changed?
This, it hit me, like when a strong gust of wind comes at you and makes you stumble where you stand. I don’t want to work an 8-5 anymore. I want my time to be mine.
My Relationship With Work
This is a bit baffling to realize when, for the past seventeen years, it’s all I’ve known. It doesn’t even account for all of the things I’ve done on top of working. Earning two degrees (almost–this July!). Learning how to be in a relationship for the first time. Learning how to be a pup parent. Trying to be a good friend, daughter and sibling (and becoming an aunt for the first time). Traveling whenever I can stomach the cost. Writing books and trying to also build that career, learning marketing, brand creation, promotion and more. This is a full-time job in and of itself. It’s included staying on top of things like this blog, my Patreon and a newsletter.
Getting a taste of what it could be like if my time was fully mine was so wonderful. Editing 50,000 words in three weeks?? That was the same amount of work that took me almost half a year to complete, on top of working full-time, client work and grad school. Getting to sleep a schedule that actually fit my body’s clock was heavenly. I’m dreading trying to get up early almost more than having almost 50 hours of my week being taken away from me. All of this has just made me realize that the life I want, the routines that make me thrive, is not possible with a 8-5 job. It’s just not.
Gotta pay those bills somehow. Even if the paycheck is barely enough to cover them, so anytime anything isn’t budget in as a regular bill, it goes on the credit card, making it harder and harder to pay off debt that’s been looming over my head for years. The stress of student loan payments potentially coming back has me almost in tears.
Before you say: just continue job searching until you find a better paying job, don’t. I tried that. Please don’t suggest trying to have a better budget. My budget literally consists of only the things we have to have. I’m not an idiot. I live in capitalist America. There is no possible way for me to survive without a full-time job. I am just in my feels at the cost of that.
Because, when I step back to look at it, there are so many costs. My happiness, for one. Taking care of my needs and instead, trying to shoehorn them into a mold that has never worked, because society says we must. The stress levels are consistently high. Guilt plagues me. It’s never an easy decision, where I’m constantly weighing if I can afford to buy something (whether it be a meal, a gift or just something I just bloody want). It shouldn’t be an all day debate in my head whether I’m allowed to buy fast food instead of eating ramen because I want some variety.
A lot of this also comes from the constant push and pull of wanting to be debt free but also wanting to live. For example: my partner and I might have the chance to take a mini vacation (!) for the first time in almost four years (!!) to a beach (!!!). However, if we were to do it, it’d be almost $1,000 for us to go. The only way to do that would be to put it on my credit card, which then sets me back over a year of me trying to pay it off. Yet I know the happiness of getting to experience that would be something I haven’t gotten in years.
I’m weighing actual cost versus emotional cost. Every day.
Friends, I’m just so tired. I’m so tired of having to be on red alert, when it comes to finances, and feeling like a fucking failure anytime I do something “irresponsible.” Irresponsible meaning making a purchase that isn’t a bill. Or wanting to get a new tattoo, support an author or order in food once a week. I’m so, so tired of paying emotionally, mentally, physically and the “reward” being to barely afford the basics. And I’m so heartbroken that I know the solutions, but it’s not feasible. Not in this economy. Not in this reality.
I am so, so tired.
OKAY. This post went everywhere, my gosh. 😅 It didn’t even get into some of the things I planned to talk about. Like how I’m nervous how these feelings will tie into the work needed when I publish a book. Or how exhausting it is to self-promote (like my Patreon and editorial services) and how that takes a toll on your mental health, too. Maybe I’ll do a separate post on those things.
It just…it really sucks, to live in a society where you hustle and you work and you do everything “right” and yet…it’s still not enough. It’s not nearly enough. And it asks you to put your wellbeing, health and mental health on the line, just to scrape by.
It’s bullshit. If you’re feeling that, too, I want you to now you’re not alone. I’m not sure what to do about it, but you’re not alone.