I am the type of person that needs to have a million things on their to-do list or they will get nothing done. And the less time I have to accomplish my tasks, the better. I relish the challenge. Or, rather, I force it upon myself.
“You owe it to your talent to do your homework,” is something that RuPaul Charles said to Farrah Moan during the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and its echo has been reverberting off the walls of my mind since I first heard it. Each time I knowingly push one task off for another, I hear it. Each time I give myself only twelve hours to write an essay, I hear it.
But, I also hear it when I am so absolutely exhausted and think I can’t possibly cross another task off the list before bed, and then somehow manage to, solely for the purpose of freeing a few extra minutes for the following morning.
With three part-time jobs while taking a full course load, maybe this type of schedule or state of being is only natural. And while I personally thrive on this type of adrenaline, I am acutely aware of how toxic this behaviour is to my work, mental health, and personal relationships.
What’s more distressing—or disturbing, really—is not only how much praise this type of life earns me (from myself, as well as outside sources), but also how it has become oddly expected of us as students and professionals to lead such lives.
We call it ‘The Hustle’. And with the rise of enhanced connectivity through social media and entrepreneurial platforms, it has now become expected of us to have a ‘side hustle’. It is no longer acceptable to focus solely on studies and a fulfilling personal life – resumés lacking extracurriculars or multiple jobs or creative content, etc. are now the signs of someone that doesn’t “go the extra mile”.
But is it really the “extra mile” if it’s expected?
Don’t get me wrong, I have never been so personally fulfilled as I am in this complete chaos. But a few questions linger within the shadowy corners of my mind: “How long can you keep it up?”, “How much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve the success you crave?”, “Will you have the wisdom to know when to stop, or slow down, at least?”
And as I question my productivity and its relationship to my personal and professional value or worth—whatever that means—I watch the quality of my self-care decline. As gross as it sounds, I notice that the temporal distance between things like dishes, laundry, and showers expands. And with it, so does my self-consciousness and anxiety.
And while I still “owe it to my talent to do my homework,” I also owe it to myself to nurture my physical and mental needs. And while I absolutely need to learn to toe the tightrope of personal and professional duty, I can’t help but equally resent and thrive upon the balancing act.