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We Need to Stop Glorifying Exhaustion

"I only slept four hours last night"

"All I’ve eaten today is a granola bar and five cups of coffee"

"I have a hundred things to do this week, I don’t have time for anything else"

I have said a variation of each of these phrases at least twice in the past week alone, and have heard the same from many of my friends in return. As undergraduate and graduate students, we wear phrases like these as badges of honour. We pride ourselves on being busy, working hard, and juggling our many responsibilities and stressors. But what is too busy? What does working too hard look like? And is it successfully juggling if the most important balls - such as sleeping and eating - are consistently dropped?

We live in a world of what many have come to refer to as “hustle culture,” a world where young people especially feel a certain obligation to overwork and subsequently under-rest. 

As a young adult, one of my biggest enemies has always been boredom, it comes easily and often to me if I don’t keep myself occupied. As such, my days usually look like a blur of work, online school, executive duties for the club I’m a part of, do I need to do anything for my community engaged learning placement today? I should probably do some laundry, have I had lunch yet today? Another coffee sounds good… And lately, I’ve been starting to wonder… maybe I could use some boredom. 

I’m not sure when I began understanding being overwhelmed as the standard, when the lines between being busy and productive and being constantly exhausted started to blur. I’m not sure when I began filling my plate (metaphorically) with things out of perceived obligation rather than interest and enjoyment; when I seemingly lost the ability to say “no” to someone or something else so that I could say “yes” to myself. But I think I, we, need to reevaluate some things. 

Sleeping and eating are not meant to be luxuries. 

Say it again with me… Sleeping and eating are not meant to be luxuries.

As I finish up my undergraduate degree at Western, my responsibilities for my club BoostHER ease up for the summer, my role at mindyourmind shifts and eases up as well, I find myself standing at the brink of something I’m unfamiliar with: a whole lot of free time. If I’m being honest, the thought of it makes me uneasy. What in the world am I going to do? Who am I going to answer to? Where is my self-worth going to come from if not from the things I produce to be evaluated by a professor or a boss or some other superior?

The answer: me

I’m going to get comfortable with doing nothing, with making breakfast and eating it outside, with stretching, with going for walks while listening to music, with painting for fun, with doing the things that fill me up instead of draining me, with being productive, not in the way that I’m used to, but productive nonetheless. And when things pick up again, when I choose to work more, or go back to school, when I begin filling my plate back up again, I will be sure there is always room for the important things.