Olivia Ground is a second-year advertising major and writes “Liv, Laugh, Love” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
In high school, I was told if I wanted to get scholarships, I had to participate in extracurricular activities and have numerous community service hours.
In high school, I was a marching band section leader and received multiple gold medals at a state level for solos. I was in a statewide band, and I completed more than 350 community service hours over four years. I was involved in local and national leadership ambassador programs. I graduated with a four year honor roll streak and 34 college credits.
Yet, I did not earn a single scholarship.
I applied for more than 20 scholarships, but I didn't receive a single one. What exactly did I gain then? The answer to this — burnout. I reached a point in my last semester of high school where I couldn’t find the will to do any work or try for that matter. I felt like school and living was an endless cycle of work that I had no passion for.
More specifically, I gained the subconscious need to constantly work hard to the point where I have convinced myself that if I don't work hard, I will never get a job.
In high school, I worked diligently to reach the standards I set for myself, but I was never satisfied. I found myself in this continuous cycle of burnout and anxiety. I was never happy, I was always tired. Even with me being in college, this hasn’t changed.
When I had the chance to speak to a professor from the school of journalism at Ball State my senior year of high school, I was bombarded with a variety of opportunities that would encourage me to be involved. I was told time and again that I had the chance to get involved, meet professionals and get hired.
This same rhetoric was preached repeatedly to me during my application and orientation process, and it is still the same to this day. I have been told more times than I can count that my participation in organizations would be the breaking point of my future employment. “Join this club, and you’ll have a resume opportunity that will guarantee an instant hire. Get involved early, and you’ll have so much portfolio material you’ll be hired right away.”
I fell subject to these empty guarantees.
My first year of college, I took 18 credit hours, three more than what is recommended for college students. This meant I was spending an average of three hours in classes and three hours studying per day. I was also heavily involved in five organizations on campus, all of which demanded an average of three hours per week, sometimes even demanding double that requiring me to work from dinner until 2 a.m. every night for a week.
Newsflash — no organization should ever deny you eight hours of sleep every night, it’s what your body needs to function.
Good Housekeeping defines hustle culture as “a lifestyle where the career has become such a priority in your life or the environment that you work in that other aspects of being human — such as hobbies, family-time and self-care — often take a back seat.”
I was naive, and I had fallen for this narrative that demanded me to be as involved as possible to get a great job after college. I was told by upperclassmen and faculty that getting three hours of sleep every night for weeks was normal for college students and professionals alike — this was the standard for my industry as an advertising and journalism professional.
I was a naive first-year student, listening to upperclassmen, who were expected to graduate, tell me they wouldn’t sleep for days, ran on energy drinks and ate one meal a day. In a sense, I felt like they were proud of this. To them, this is the same grind that got them internships and jobs lined up for after graduation, the same grind that shows an indicator of life in the real world.
My over involvement caused me to take a nose dive to the hard crash of burnout. The lack of rest and never-ending stress has physically caused my immune system and mental health to break down. There were several occasions where I had ear infections and tonsillitis simply because my body was severely exhausted; it couldn't fight off seasonal allergies.
To the same effect, I lost sleep and found myself stressed to the point where I was skipping meals overall, making myself sick. My mental health was steadily declining; consequently, so were my grades.
I was losing my sense of self.
Yet, I kept pushing myself because I thought if I wasn’t constantly physically sick and mentally unwell, all my efforts would get me a job. I was somehow convinced this is simply how life has to be, and I should be feeling depleted and lost because that's what it means to have a job.
I love Ball State. I do genuinely and wholeheartedly love my school and my area of study. I don’t blame Ball State for being the reason I was so over involved — I did that to myself. I do think there are so many benefits to being involved, as I am involved in the Daily News, worked as an orientation leader and am now a resident assistant. Likewise, I think there are a lot of benefits of joining an organization that you’re passionate about because I have learned so much and met people who are genuinely my favorite people on the planet.
However, I think everyone, myself included, has fallen victim to hustle culture.
As a society, we have put our literal well-being on a backburner and chosen to prioritize “the hustle.” We’re obsessed with “the grind” and “getting the bag.”
There are probably a million reasons as to why this has happened, whether it is contributed to social media, the 2008 recession, job instability or whatever reason it happened, hustle culture is a slow-burning killer that is finding its prey on college campuses. We, as students, are its victims. As students, we have spent so much time getting involved that we have slowly started to burn out. A study by the American Psychological Association showed that 87 percent of Gen. Z adults said their education was a significant source of stress, thus linking to burnout.
This is dangerous because if we are burnt out before we even get into our careers, how are we supposed to thrive when we are placed in the industry? The most frustrating part is that it seems almost impossible to shake off this hustle culture mentality because of how deeply embedded in society it is.
I know I catch myself judging others for their lack of involvement in student media, wondering what else could have possibly gotten them a job, and I’m sure I am not the only one who has done this. Students have all probably wondered why we are the only ones in the news writing class that are actually writing for the newspaper. We judge our peers for their lack of involvement and may often think we’re better simply because we are involved. Yet, that is nothing more than hustle culture talking.
The thing is, the only way to beat hustle culture is to simply stop hustling. Make yourself the priority, especially in college. College isn’t easy, but it could be a lot easier if you took time for yourself. Make time in your week to go out, schedule a designated nap. It sounds so silly, but setting aside hours every day to spend time away and alone can benefit your mental health. Get eight hours of sleep, do things you love, go to therapy and eat well.
Overall, put yourself first because being a healthy and happy human is going to get you so much further than a list of a dozen organizations will.
Contact Olivia Ground with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.