Unspoken: Busyness Cravings

The culture of exhausting oneself for unguaranteed outcomes needs to end

Demi Lawrence

Demi Lawrence is a sophomore journalism news major and writes "Unspoken" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at dnlawrence@bsu.edu.

Nearly every day of my Monday through Friday work week is a 12 hour day. Some are even 15 hour days.

I have not been home before dark in more than three weeks. I see my friends once a week if I am lucky. I only went back to my hometown for fall break for a day because I had to get back to Muncie to work and study. I only am at my house to eat and sleep, and sometimes I don’t even do those things there.

I am so tired. I am so exhausted. 

All of it’s not even extraneous to me anymore – it’s normal. But the more I think about it, the more surreal it becomes how much my work dictates my life.

According to the American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment in 2017, more than 60 percent of college students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety at some point in the past 12 months.

This idea that we must exhaust ourselves to our utmost breaking points to even have a glimpse at reaching our goals is disgusting. Exhausting ourselves to emotional and mental breakdowns needs to end.

I should be able to sleep soundly at night, not tossing and turning wondering if I did everything I was supposed to do that day. I should be able to eat lunch and not have to work on homework while I do so. I shouldn’t have to cry at the library at 1 a.m. on a Monday night over my piles of projects and work I have to do. 

My dream one day is to end up working for The Boston Globe. 

I want to be that female journalist who breaks down doors, slams hands on desks and demands stories. Oh, and maybe wear a cool pantsuit or something like that. But jobs and fields are so competitive and nothing is guaranteed. I slave away at the mere dream that maybe, someday, I’ll be good enough to achieve those aspirations.

I am slaving away for an end goal that, frankly, I am unsure will even happen.

I know I’m not just crying into an empty bucket here. I am sure everyone on campus has felt this way from time to time, if not daily like me. No matter your major you are going to be exhausted. Because it’s not about the profession or the field of study, it’s about the culture.

According to a study done by ManpowerGroup, 73 percent of millennials globally work more than 40 hours a week. Over a typical five day work week, this is eight hours a day. 

I know when you think about it, that’s not that bad. A typical nine-to-five job for most, with only a quarter of millennials reporting working just a little more. But those nine-to-five jobs only leave those employees with seven hours before midnight to do personal things, like spend time with family, make dinner or go out for drinks. Or some jobs require outside work away from the office. So, say that takes up three of those seven hours each night. Only four hours left to spend time with family or make dinner or go out for drinks.

Quickly, we begin to see the exhaustion. We work more than we enjoy the fruitions of that work. 

Why do we feel the need to work these 40 hour work weeks? Do we slave for the paycheck or the GPA, or because it’s all we have ever known to do?

I believe this culture of exhaustion stems from not only the internal and external pressures to constantly be producing, creating and pushing beyond your limits, but a comparison game as well. 

I look around me and see so many talented journalists, and I long to be as good as them. I am already pushing past my breaking point, but in those moments I tear myself down and tell myself I am still not working hard enough. Because how could I be working as hard as I can if I am not at their level? My engine is gasping for the breaks as I only push harder on the gas pedal. 

I slowly have become an exhausted clone of who I once was. And for what? A degree that may not guarantee me a job? Clips that aren’t as good as my colleagues'? Minimal sleep that only further slows down my creative processes?

In a warped sort of way, I enjoy the busyness of it all. I’ve began to crave it in fact. Because I’d rather be so busy I barely remember to breathe than not be doing anything at all, plagued with fear that I’ve forgotten something or plastered in guilt over the fact that I am not doing anything.

Some slave away for a GPA. Others for their livelihood. But for most of us, I think it’s involuntary. We are used to the exhaustive culture, so we stick to what is familiar. We have become numb and robotic to the damage we are doing to ourselves – mentally, physically and emotionally – and to the culture around us by contributing to it. 

This exhaustive culture will tear the millennial generation apart if we do nothing to combat it. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, age 24 is when 75 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin to develop.

We will become burnt out at young ages, no longer passionate about the things that once lit our souls on fire. Everything will come to a screeching halt if we do not stop and evaluate what we exactly are working for. 

Are we working for ourselves? Are we working to appease the pressures surrounding us? Or we are working because it’s simply all we’ve ever known to do?

Whatever it is, we must end it. We must crave the passion, crave the love, crave the idea that our current location, while not our final destination, is valuable within itself. I recognize my flaw in craving the busyness and that it must come to an end. Not just for me, but for us all.

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