I know it’s basically the opposite of what we preach these days.
We are firm believers in the gospel of ‘while they sleep i grind’ to the point that we almost shame people who dare to rest (unless that rest involves a yacht and cha
mpagne and can fit into the rubric of ‘work hard play hard’). In a very Tina Turner-esque turn of events we like things more, even the nice things, if they’re hard.
honestly, I get it.
Our lives are different from the generations before, the boom time is over, recession has been a part of our reality, and capitalism marches on.
For black folk and people of colour who have had everything including their work ethic colonised, we are busy pushing back against the notion that we are naturally lazy and dunce.
So of course we hustle to prove them wrong (I’ve always wondered why we’re so comfortable defining our lives by external terms and giving our entire existence over to disproving some myth that was used to shackle us, but that’s another post).
The point of this post is that your body will pay for it. And at this juncture despite your best efforts your body might be the only thing that can belong to you (though they sure have tried to take the autonomy with unethical experiments and surgery inserting birth control that could never come out, and denying us reproductive rights while supporting rape in almost every way possible). Your body (for now) can’t be repossessed and you can’t be deported from it. They can’t give you notice and tell you to vacate in 30 days.
Sleep deprivation and overwork will literally kill you.
What will also kill you is the other things that accompany the hustle hard lifestyle: caffeine and energy drink dependency, poor eating habits, not getting ant exercise, high levels of stress etc.
Lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, liver diseases, arthritis and high cholesterol – caused by dependency on fast food, eating as a means of escapism and coping, not sleeping, and binge drinking are now the leading cause of death – in particular among young people. The Caribbean is reported as having the highest rates of lifestyle diseases according to one study and puts a burden – yes on the government – but moreso on us who a dead earlier or live in illness more than before. This while medical technology has improved significantly.
So the issue isn’t medicine people, it’s us. Overwork is glorified and …sometimes me nuh even sure it rewarded. Me know nuff people weh a overwork demself fi years and nuh have nuttn but heart problem and poor eye sight and strained relationships wid dem partner and pickney fi show fi it.
But what can you do right? A just so the system set.
Well yes, and no. The system will be the system, you don’t have to buy into it. But it will take some work and maybe some change in aspirations.
I have a few things I think might help.
- Stop glorifying busy and overwork. Stop acting like always being at work is some kind of achievement. Work is supposed to pay for your life, not eat the whole thing raw.
- Decide how many things you need. Yes, step away from the life they’ve sold you as ideal and think about what you need and want. Yes, I know its hard, especially since we judge our success through what we own. So maybe 2a) change how you judge success. Everything you own or want to own is a certain number of hours of work that you’ll have
to put in. Now go ahead and add in the hours you’ll have to work to maintain them and you have a pretty good idea of what your life will look like. Prune, prioritise and remember life is not work.
- Stop equating stress with success and productivity. There are quite a few successful people who live stress free. Also stop telling yourself ‘ when I get to the top of the ladder I’ll take a break’…suppose you never get there…suppose trying to get there in the way you’ve been trying actually kills you? Success is a lot of things but it’s not stress. And the absence of stress is not laziness, it’s just called healthy living.
- And this is a reach – over throw capitalism. Because the capitalist system can only function if some people live in or die from poverty and if some people do far more work than they’re paid for. I think we can agree most people do that now.
- Since number 4 is unlikely to happen I suggest prioritising your health and learning skills to manage stress. Because honestly what’s the point of working like that if you’re less likely to be alive to enjoy it.
I recognise that for people who don’t have much financial support these can be especially difficult choices to make because this change of mindset can come with consequences. For people without financial and social buffers the consequences could mean devastation. Also, overwork may be necessary to overcome absolute poverty. It is up to people who do have financial advantages to intervene in this overwork culture and create some kind of change so people who are trying to make it don’t have to die doing it.
Take care of yourself, no matter what. If you can only afford 5 minutes to stop and eep breathe take the. To the people who don’t have to work that way to survive: stop buying into and propping up a culture that is actively hurting people, including yourself.