Although most of us have yet to be in a consistent workforce outside of part-time jobs, UR students are not exempt from the trend in work culture to be constantly busy. Some people are genuinely busy, and I’m not discounting their hard work or struggles. But there is a toxic culture surrounding work that needs to be addressed.
It’s no secret that students at UR are competitive, and maybe to a fault. Many of us are constantly stressed, overworked, and exhausted. Some of this is caused by inevitable factors, but a lot of it is our own doing. With course registration coming up, I’ve heard people “complaining” about overloading and how crazy their schedule is going to be in the fall, even with the new overloading policy restrictions. I always hear people sharing how little sleep they get or how they barely have time to eat. It can sometimes feel like they’re flaunting their insane schedule and challenging people to match them. Why is it that so many people feel the need to be constantly working? Why is it that we don’t feel productive until our days are jam-packed?
It’s oftentimes not our fault that we feel this way. We’ve grown up in a time when going to college is simply not enough to get a job. There are countless other boxes to check to be successful in society’s eyes. I’m only a first-year, but I’ve seen myself succumb to this attitude. I felt like if I didn’t overload, I wasn’t going to be as successful as my peers who did. Overloading has improved my work ethic, but it has also made me into someone who has had more stressful days than I thought possible. And it’s made me feel guilty on the days that I wasn’t productive.
“Hustle culture” pressures people into making decisions that ultimately are not the best for them. Is it not strange that people who constantly work are praised for their determination or drive? What we should be doing is praising people who make decisions based on what they truly want. Working hard is commendable, but we shouldn’t put people down for taking a break or going at their own pace. Many of us are aware that excessive competition negatively affects students’ mental health, yet we continue to participate because we feel like we do not have any other choice. College students will only be able to relax when the broader world makes it okay to relax. Instead of brandishing the scars of our exhaustion, we need to normalize prioritizing our health.
I do see growing change regarding this issue. I hear more and more often about parents letting kids take a mental health day, which is something I wish I could have done. I know there are definitely people who scoff at this and say that kids these days are too soft, but this is the kind of narrative that needs to change. In recent years, the conversation around therapy and mental health has grown from something that seemed taboo to a relatively normal topic. I only hope that society can continue to prioritize our inner well-being instead of our outward success.