Sick and tired of being sick and tired – a workaholic culture crisis


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Liman questions if our school workload is training students to be workaholics.

Work, work, work. Breathe- hustle, grind, hustle. Breathe- work, work, work.

Finish the 1500-word literature review for AP Research. Lead a 2 hour dance practice. Study and practice for the APUSH DBQ. Order hip hop costumes for the three hip hop dances we, the Carnegie Competitive Dance Team (of which I’m a captain of), are going to compete in January. Perfect the elevator pitch presentation for AP Research. Record the podcast for Honors Journalism. Continue organizing and publicizing Operation Music Class, my mission to initiate the first music class at CVHS. Stumble through the OpenStax and AP Classroom progress checks for AP Physics. Pull myself through a 3 hour dance practice today, because it’s Friday. Pray to sweet Lord Jesus that I will pass my AP Calculus BC midterm (the one midterm we were taking before Christmas Break, as the rest of them were pushed afterwards for some bizarre reason). Work, work, work. Brea- work, work, work. How did I have this many assignments and responsibilities the week before Winter Break?

Because of HISD’s interesting decision to go against the grain and try 6-week cycles, I, alongside many, many students, found myself unnecessarily stressed with new huge projects to hustle to completion during the final week and 6 AP midterms to study for and fret about during the long-awaited Winter Break. And on top of that, the colossal weight of pressure to think about our futures has us all signing up for clubs we may not even be super passionate about (not talking about dance here, though- I love dance), volunteering on days where we could be recovering from burning out so frequently, and working ourselves light-years past our thresholds. Yes, it can be awesome to challenge oneself and accomplish new feats, but there is a fine line between healthy productivity and toxic productivity, also known as workaholism.

Back to my flashback. ‘Twas Thursday night, the last sort of dreadful, exhausting, agonizing, torturous, and just eternally long, late night of the week before freedom. Sweet freedom. How in the blue moon did I end up with such an overwhelming to-do list? I’m tired. Ahh, I really, really hope I finish them all in time. You see, I have this thing some call “paralyzing perfectionism” which is a somewhat irrational fear that comes up way more than pleasant and prevents me from starting to work on anything out of the worry that it won’t turn out perfectly. (Funny enough, I had actually procrastinated writing this paper because of paralyzing perfectionism!) This left me with a relatively light workload, just a few headaches, and around 7 hours of sleep at the beginning of the week. But that Thursday night, ohh mai gawsh. 7 yawns a minute, constant head bobbing, blurry eyesight declining more and more by the second, High School Musical 3 playing in the background as a desperate attempt to keep me awake, accompanied by Ben & Jerry’s mint chocolate chip that I was eating with a fork, straight out of the pint- I, very much like the ice cream, was melting. Melting from being overwhelmed, melting from the exhaustion, from the sleepiness, from the body heat of 3 blankets enveloping me like a cute little beheaded baby. Okay, that sounded less gory in my head, but I mean… I was deteriorating at 2:14 in the morning. Of course, I wouldn’t let myself go to bed without finishing my numerous tasks, but I allowed for a few power naps at the dining table where I was situated. But, boy, after my eyelids grudgingly separated to turn on the bathroom light Friday morning, I felt like what I imagine a hungover zombie feels like. Work, work, work. Brea- hustle, grind, hustle. Breathe- work, work, work.

I soon realized that this was way more than my body, my mind, and even my soul was able to comfortably and healthily handle. And after opening up to my parents and friends, I realized that this wasn’t just a me problem- it was societal. So what happened to us? Why does our childhood look so different from that of teens from, say, the 80’s? Girls from this time just wanna have fun too! We have mutated into creatures of, as Urban Dictionary puts it, a person whose sole purpose in life is to work hard and achieve until the day they die, never stopping to enjoy their achievements or see the world around them. Everything comes second to work and because of this, their friendships are torn and love life is darker than the dark side of the moon.” A humorous, hyperbolic way of putting an unfortunate reality but definitely illustrative of such, namely, workaholics. A close comparison can be made to alcoholism, from which the term is actually derived.

Being a hard worker isn’t the issue, though. Workaholics overwork themselves at the cost of sleep, social functions, and sanity (I’m still missing a chunky chunk of all three of these things). Not even just that, overworking oneself in this manner drains morale and reduces overall productivity. And it’s not even just high schoolers who are affected in this poisonous manner; Insperity discovered that a startling 65 percent of bosses said they still work while on vacation, according to a 2014 CareerBuilder study. How bizarre! Furthermore, even though our generation is working longer and harder than ever, we are facing a toxic combination of formidable financial demands (student debt, lower salaries, higher house prices, pressure to find ‘our passion’ and pressure to find a stable job in an increasingly insecure job market, according to BBC). So, the question remains, why in the world are we doing this to ourselves? I suppose it’s a product of the bandwagon effect and skyrocketing standards of schools, parents, companies, and beyond.

A workaholic can also be described as a person who works not because they genuinely enjoy it, but rather because they feel compelled to do it. I’ve seen it firsthand- really, I see it everyday. In me, in my friends, in my folks. I think it would do us all a favor if we consolidated our commitments, carving out the unnecessary things we pointlessly hoard, and allowed ourselves to rest, take breaks, and make room for self-care time. I actually took this hypothesis out for a spin this week. For me, that looked like me delegating some to-do’s to other officers of the CCDT and Community Crew, giving myself permission to enjoy my lunch while rewatching various singers’ Christmas specials or hanging out with friends, and scheduling time for me to jam (singing and playing guitar) with my lil brother, Troy. And no doubt, I have seen many benefits from doing these 3 R’s: reevaluate, reduce responsibilities, and rest / recuperate. Scratch work, work, work. Instead, reduce, rest, and recuperate.

I like the way USA Today words workaholism: “It’s the newest incarnation of the American dream, the belief that if you hustle now, later you can enjoy a luxurious lifestyle and astronomical achievement.” But like with everything in life, there is a delicate balance. Yes, let’s put forth our best efforts and give our best work, but let’s not over-exhaust ourselves in our work because the only thing that’s going to do is reduce the quality of your energy and your work. Plus, I have seen and truly believe that everything will work out in the end. It always does- so enjoy your youth! Enjoy your life! Don’t just work, work, work; reduce, rest, and recuperate!