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Hustle Culture

I have a love-hate relationship with “hustle culture”. Hustle culture is the social concept to be working hard and hard-working pretty much constantly. The idea of staying “on the grind” with a 24/7 type agenda to accomplish your goals, strive for what you want, out-work your competition and succeed in life. This sounds fine on the surface but what is it actually encouraging? I have a good work ethic but the pressure of hustle culture has ultimately led me to believe that I cannot take breaks or I am failing. I can’t be slacking, I can’t be “lazy” or else I am not doing good enough. What a horrible feeling… not being good enough. “Not doing enough to be good enough” is something I feel quite often, which I believe stems from hustle culture.

During the past few months I have been scared to sleep which is an interesting thing to fear. I started working myself so hard that I began to feel shame, anxiety, selfishness, and fear when I would lay down to sleep at night. I felt as if I were a failure for resting - something you need as a human! Let me tell you the start of it all...

Does anyone else not want to sleep? What a broad question. There are an endless amount of reasons why you might have trouble sleeping. I’m not here to diagnose you but share my story as I continue to fight the battle of sleeping.

Pretty much all my life I could sleep, anywhere, anytime, for however long. I was the queen of sleeping. When I was a baby my parents took me to the doctor because I was sleeping “excessively”. In reality I was just a baby that liked sleeping; my parents were also used to a toddler who had ADHD and never slept so their shock and concern was reasonable.

In high school I took naps religiously and rightfully so based on the amount of sports I played. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2021 that I began my struggle with sleeping. I was theoretically supposed to be in England for university but because of COVID I had spent the 2020-2021 academic year back in Las Vegas with my family. At the time I was attending online classes and completing assignments from 1am to 7am most nights because of the dramatic 8-hour time difference. I had a job at a trampoline park in town where I worked most days 8am to 4pm. I was also working on Details Magazine at every chance I could and trying to maintain a life that was completely flipped from everyone else’s schedule. I was getting roughly 6 hours of sleep in the evenings but my ambition started getting the best of me.

In February of 2021 I took on a second job. This one was an overnight job so my thought process was, “I am awake regardless (10pm to 6am), the job isn’t too demanding, I could listen to my class through my earbuds and still be attentive. It should be fine. I can do this!”

I don’t like being incapable. I hate that word. So I will give it my all, and do it until I am capable. This is my downfall sometimes, I recognize that now.

I ended up not sleeping for days. Addicted to caffeine even more than before, drinking as much coffee as a human possibly could at every chance I got. Trying to stay on top of the magazine and assignments on my off days and attending classes; I spent almost every moment that I wasn’t at work at a 24-hour coffee shop in town. I slept in my car for an hour when I didn’t have time to go home between shifts, which was most mornings and afternoons before heading back to the coffee shop for more caffeine and school work.

What an unhealthy lifestyle. I don’t remember eating most days, just trying to stay awake. I started falling asleep at work. I would stand at the counter of my overnight job (note: I was the only person on shift during these hours) and lean on it, struggling to keep my eyes open. It felt like I was drunk. I was no longer in control of myself mentally or physically. My body physically hurt from staying awake and struggling so much to fight against it. I would blink and a customer would just appear in front of me because of how much my brain and eyes were lagging. To this day I don’t understand how I functioned in front of customers, leading them to believe I was awake and alert like any other. But the real danger wasn’t the amount of caffeine I was consuming, it wasn’t the pain throughout my body and it wasn’t falling asleep at my jobs. It was driving.

Everywhere I needed to drive in town was (coffee shop, home, work, other work), were all roughly 20 minutes away from each other. I was terrified to drive but I didn’t want to admit that I was unfit. So instead of calling my parents, or asking a friend for a ride, I struggled on the road. I didn’t even realize when my eyes would shut until I opened them to the feeling of the bumps on the road, or the car turning unintentionally. On occasion I would stop in a parking lot for 10 minutes and rest. These moments were eye-openers. I could’ve died or even killed someone because of my “need” to be capable and the thought that I had to be constantly going.

Ultimately, I left my overnight job. There was no healthy or safe way to live the life I was living. It was dangerous to myself and to others. The moral of this story is that sleep affects all aspects of your life and growth. Sleep is the time for your body to recover, which is necessary even if you’re like me and just want to go-go-go all the time. Rest is important for cognitive function, healing any part of your body, and resetting after your day. Without sleep your cognitive function will be impaired and your body will eventually shut down.

According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine, explains that getting consistent, quality sleep is a foundational process to healing. It allows our bodies to fight off illnesses and diseases as well as recover.

Dr. Abhinav Singh says that teens must receive 8-10 hours of sleep and young adults 7-9. My advice to you is learn from my mistakes. Understand that the hustle culture that drives young people to feel like they have to accomplish everything all the time is toxic if you’re not allowing your body to rest. Ambitions are good. There are ways of managing two jobs. Being dedicated to your studies is beneficial. But the most important part about all of it is to rest. Rest doesn’t even need to be sleep. Of course, sleep, but “rest” can be a bath, a night in or a relaxed morning with your favorite book. Rest can be your idea of self care or a hike to enjoy nature's peace.

I am still in the process of understanding that I am good enough. I am doing enough. And it is okay to rest. The process is real and progress is slow but it is more than okay to be slow in the journey to self acceptance, love and recognition because slow progress is still beautiful progress! There are people around you who are willing to support you, especially in terms of rest. Putting in the time for your goals will get you nowhere if you can’t function. Please be safe and take the rest you need and deserve.

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