Up until last month, I was hustling one full-time job and three part-time jobs. Every minute of every day was booked on my calendar for a hundred “urgent” tasks.
“Chill” wasn’t a word in my vocabulary. I would rest but, um, not really.
If and when I would rest, I would make it productive. Online courses, cooking classes, hard books – those were allowed forms of rest. Netflix, naps, articles on the WWW – unacceptable! A crime! My rest should be purposeful, deliberate, creative even if it doesn’t recharge me in the slightest, even if it feels more depleting than work itself. Rest shouldn’t be indolent, lazy, or useless.
There was no room for a “no-judgment” rest on my calendar. No cheat days here, sir. I was an annoying productivity freak.
Why? Some of it was because I wanted to ward off all uncertainty and have full control (like that is even possible). The other bigger chunk was because, like all of my generation, I had learned to make the association of “rest” with “guilt.”
Because every minute I spent watching something I enjoyed is every minute I could have spent “productively.” It is an opportunity cost wherein I should always choose work and learning. This non-busy shame was a monstrous shadow lurking in every true rest I tried to undertake.
Psychologists even have a name for this phenomenon: irrational guilt. No surprises in the name there, huh?
You want to take a nap, but you should do this new course on a Saturday instead. You want to watch a movie, but you should hone an existing skill to expertise instead. “Should ” is the operating keyword here – existing in your moral compass without prior thought.
But it’s not like I didn’t know – I knew very well about the benefits of rest. My part-time jobs involved writing about self-care and abolishing the capitalistic notion of always working only so someone else can profit off your toil. But my writing didn’t translate to action.
I wrote in one of my how-to-be-productive-by-self-care articles that ‘breaks allow for progress’ and thought that’s complete bullcrap. How can I achieve anything if I am not burning myself out to the point of utter exhaustion? I had done it for years – pulling off all-nighters because I had taken five internships with college, having a no-weekends-off policy, juggling too many endeavors at once, and I was celebrated for it.
I wasn’t rewarded for resting and taking care of myself. I was rewarded for my workaholism, for my busyness, for my speed. I could get a ton of shit done. I wore that veil as my badge of honor – to be bestowed with such busyness that does not allow for self-reflection, recharging, or rejuvenating.
Idolizing the hustle culture (or even the startup culture) is our generation’s smoking advertisement – making something look “cool” when what it truly does is suck the joy out of your lungs.
But I’ve had enough in the last month. So, I decided to implement what I write (what a crazy idea, I know) and get my chill on. I still work, I am not Otessa’s heroine that can sleep for a year. But I sit in the sunshine longer – read a poem or two (really read it, unlike the skim-sessions before). I take more pauses to check-in. I afford the luxury to say “no” when I need a break.
And I daresay, it is pleasurable – this leisure, this honey-dripping sun-kissed sweetness of rest.