A Positive Spin On Hustle Culture?

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by Hazel Anna Rogers for the Carl Kruse Blog

I seldom use Instagram these days.

I did a cleanse’ of my own page recently – deleting unprofessional posts and cringeworthy captions in order that the page exhibit me in a more sober light – and I came across quite a few of my posts which preached a sort of pseudo-spiritual message of ‘slowing down’, ‘finding balance’, and ‘being still’ within a money-driven culture.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with young Hazel’s naïve social media musings, and, indeed, perhaps I agree, to an extent, with this sentiment. For some people, it could indeed be useful to take a step back in order to re-evaluate their life decisions, or perhaps to spend more time with their family, to engage more in the things they actually enjoy, and so on. Maybe this message might be well-suited to an already wealthy, yet depressed, high-level businessman, who finds himself numb due to little sleep and so on. But I’ve been thinking more about the notion of ‘work less play more’, and whether this attitude is actually beneficial to where I am now in my life.

There are a swathe of videos on Youtube dubbed ‘I quit my dream job’, ‘I quit my $350k job’, ‘I quit my 9-5 job’, and so forth. I haven’t watched all of these videos, but I feel as though I can speak on what some of them, albeit if not all, suggest about a certain trending mentality. Useful to mention are the comments beneath said videos. I shall quote some here:

No amount of money can buy real happiness

Well done on taking that leap and putting yourself first!

genuinely am SO happy for you! I quit my 9-5 in December with absolutely no back up. My husband backed me 100% and said that we’ll just make it work. Our mortgage, our bills, our lifestyle and everything in between were all okay and I know the stress is there but I promise it will be okay!!!!!!!!!!! The absolutely freeing feeling you get from getting out of a toxic workplace is such an incredible feeling and it will motivate you to get through this next phase. You got this!!!!!!

I feel I can take more me time but still enjoy earning an income.

None of these comments are bad things to say, and I’m not here to disparage any of these people on their perspectives on work-life balance and other such topics. However, I’ve come to realize of late that I do indeed need to let some of my interests and joys rest on the backburner if I am truly to commit myself to pursuing what I consider to be my ‘dream’. That is to say the, quote, ‘me time’ discussed in one of these comments may well go out of the window for a few months, or even years, if I am to attain any kind of accomplishment in the field I am working towards being successful in.

I have worked hard for much of my life. I worked many different minimum wage jobs from the age of fifteen, all of which were customer service roles. The hours were long, the pay was meagre, and I would often come home completely devoid of energy and desire to pursue my hobbies outside of work. But it felt good to be able to have some money behind me, money enough to buy drinks for people when I was out without worrying too much, and money enough to make a couple of arbitrary purchases a month. I worked hard at school and achieved (mostly) what I wanted to achieve by buckling down and dedicating myself to hitting the goals I had set for myself. I haven’t had a very rife social life until now, and even now I stop myself going for drinks or going ‘out-out’ if I think that my workload will not benefit from doing so. The only time in my life where I did not have the hard-work-for-gain mindset was a few years ago when, after working as an au pair for six months, I decided to reject the so-called ‘9 to 5’ in favor of the life of a Youtuber traveling around the world. As you might guess, this ‘dream’ never materialized, partly because I did not have the willpower nor the dedication to learn proper editing skills and to invest myself in such a career. Instead, I got sucked into a dreamy, privileged vegan-yoga-exercise-Instagram wormhole, where all I did was go to yoga classes and scroll on social media, plus maybe making a few posts which I thought to be profoundly inspiring at the time. I left this yoga lifestyle after a few months and went to do some yoga in a more picturesque place: Satorini, where I took more photos and lived a fairly banal life chopping fruit, gardening, and making food for other volunteers at a café bar on Perissa Beach. I only worked four hours a day, though these were fairly grueling due to the hot summer sun; the rest of the time I spent alone, walking or going on bike rides or, I don’t know, doing some other compulsive form of exercise until I was deadbeat and fell shaking into bed. Sounds like a damn fantasy, doesn’t it. I had nothing in my life, nothing. No social life, no purpose, no creative output. But that’s what we want, we want to run away from the ‘rat-race’, to ‘quite the 9-5’, to buy a f***ing van and go traveling around in it.

I am studying to become an actor at the moment, and it is an arduous endeavor. I go to school from 8.30 until 6.30 daily, often times leaving with a workload bigger than that which I started the day with. I am also attempting to earn money on the side of this full-time training through writing and editing. Lately, I have been coming to the realization that, even when this training comes to an end, it is likely that my life will continue to pass in a whirlwind of intensity not dissimilar to that which I am experiencing now. To dream of becoming an actor is to put everything else aside for a time, because it is the pursuit of a lifetime. I have found that a difficult thing to reason with these past few weeks. I have wanted this my entire life, for as long as I can remember – how can I be having doubts?

I went on a long walk a couple of weeks ago. Some 17.5 kilometres, with a heavy backpack and the threat of a thunderstorm on the way. I camped out with my partner, and the thunderstorm never came, but that is besides the point. When I was walking, looking out at the endlessly undulating valleys below, I thought to myself: well, isn’t this good. I believe I could do this forever. Perhaps I could become a Youtuber – I could film all of my walks, all of my physical endurance challenges. Or perhaps I could go and work on a farm, and write during my down times, then publish a book. Or perhaps I could learn another craft, maybe carpentry or something, something manual and close to the earth.

I don’t think I really want any of these things.

The truth is, life is hard. Working is hard. Interacting with people you don’t find particularly agreeable is hard. Figuring out what you want is hard. Finding time to be with the people you love is hard. Getting up every day and pushing through is hard. But it is only by pushing, and wanting, and wishing, and dedicating yourself that you actually achieve the things you dream about. Maybe I am writing all of this for myself as much as for you, but I know that it is hard, and I know how easy it is to quit. I have quit many times. I have quit jobs, university, hobbies…lots of things. Because they’re all hard. Life is hard. Sometimes I think of going and becoming a monk for God’s sake, but I don’t think many of us could actually do that. We like to think we could, but we also like to have money enough to buy tickets to go and see the Buddhist temples where these monks live, and to stay nearby in star-rated hotels, swimming in pools by day and drinking under-priced drinks by night.

I want money. I want money to give back to my parents. I want money to buy beautiful ingredients to make good, good food. I want money to buy books and to pay my rent and to pay my bills and to pay for the membership for the pond where I go swimming every day. And I want this, I want this life. I want to act. I want to wake up every day and not quite believe that I am doing the thing I always dreamt of doing. Sometimes I do wake up and think such a thing, even during this training, and the rest of the journey feels far-fetched and really, f***ing, hard.

But I will do it.



This Carl Kruse Blog homepage is at carlkruse.at
Contact:  carl AT carlkruse DOT com
Other articles by Hazel are Sleep and the Enduring Insomniac, Socrates and Weightlifting, and on Ancient Travel Writing.
You can also find Carl Kruse on Medium.

Author: Carl Kruse

Human. Being.

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