Never before has some high-energy beam of light refracting off some cosmic body struck a neuron in my brain in such a way that has made me excited to roll out of bed and return to my desk. Maybe I just really don’t like Mondays. But I don’t think I’m alone on that - in fact, I’m more than sure that many, many people can relate to my sentiment. Why, then, does there seem to consistently be some push to fill up all our time slots with work in some of our mainstream theatres of labor? Entertainment, media, and gig workers seem to like reinforcing this au courant strain of philosophy. New media upstarts like the Hustle, which churns out commercial newsletters, and public figureheads of entrepreneurship like Gary Vaynerchuk extol the values of tireless work and pedal the notion that there is some spiritual nirvana to be found in ceaseless ambition.
It seems like nowadays, this way of work is becoming more mainstream: “Most visibly, WeWork — which investors recently valued at $47 billion — is on its way to becoming the Starbucks of office culture. It has exported its brand of performative workaholism to 27 countries, with 400,000 tenants, including workers from 30 percent of the Global Fortune 500" (Griffith). Less ostensibly, although it’s just as concerning, it’s even permeated the spheres of our lives that used to be things that we did exclusively for ourselves: hobbies. You’ve probably been told before by someone, in all ways well-meaning, that you could monetize something you were good at doing in your downtime. Yes, if you’ve gotten pretty good at sewing quilts, you can probably sell them. If you like covering hip hop music on the piano and have mastered their musical transcription from vocals to an acoustic instrument, you can probably do it professionally. Even as a hoarder of collectibles, be them toys or eccentric artifacts of your esoteric interest, there exists some lucrative potential in what you do. It seems like in our economy, especially in the current state of market demand, there is inherent value in our labor. Does this mean that we should monetize it though?
No. This is one of those times where it’s important not to overthink the matter. Doing so commercializes our everyday lives, and lifts the emphasis on self-care, particularly under circumstances wherein it’s necessary. We should take time off to recover from physical ailments, we need to spend time with family and friends, and we must have time to engage with our civic duties (staying politically informed, voting, etc.) - we should do these things without feeling like there is something more important to do. Plummeting productivity eventually translates into a downturn in revenue, which could very easily and swiftly pervade one’s mental health. However, when one’s mental health is sustained by budding checking account numbers, and the notion that work isn’t a means to an end but an end in and of itself, the lifestyle of eulogizing work rightly comes into question. It creates the sub-cognitive idea that our worth is largely entrenched in our capacity for work rather than in our humanity.
Take breaks when you need to. Normalize leisure - it’s literally a human right. Do what you want or have to without letting guilt and remorse underpinning their consideration. We’re not unthinking automatons hard-wired to undertake every set of duties we come across. By prioritizing material success over the mental, physical, and spiritual health of people, subscribing to hustle culture detracts from our very capacity to remain human.
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