My Time As A Campus Watch Writer Taught Me The True Meaning Of A Hustle

It’s June. I hate June. June is the month of the ‘hustlers.’ Now if you have watched enough of Lily Singh on YouTube, you would know what a ‘hustler’ means. A ‘hustler’ can actually mean almost anyone from an Instagram model to your junkie neighbour practicing drums till 4 a.m. for his show because he thinks he is going to be the next John Bonham. ‘Hustlers’ are what slackers weren’t or couldn’t be.

Now, these should not be taken at their dictionary definition because both are encrusted with cultural connotations. The generation of the slackers is best identified with the Kurt Cobain cult (lead singer of Nirvana), or basically a generation of burnout teenagers in the early 1990s who were too cool to go hustling. Now, it’s 2019 and everyone is hustling, at least in their Instagram stories.

What does hustling entail? It would mean you’re constantly moving in the direction of your nearest achievable goal and these goals could be as stupid as health (whaaaat!) and as pointless as career goals (bleeeeh). Now, I know what you’re thinking, I’m an obnoxious undergrad with pretentious and naïve worldviews who thinks unhealthy caffeine consumption is cool and has taken career advice from Alexander Supertramp but can’t differentiate between existentialism and surrealism, so I take recourse to lousy adjectives as a defense mechanism. Here’s a win, you are correct. Does that make me a slacker? Not so quick.

Coming back to why I hate June. June, in college, is supposedly for vacations. However, the hustler gen needs to find a productive purpose for everything, so they go on to apply for internships. Now in India, the concept of an internship, especially in media houses, involves you investing your labour to “learn” about a job and gain “experience” which is “priceless” and so they literally don’t pay you for your work. We love adding sentences to our CVs which are not just empty statements (blatant lies, maybe then?) about our personalities and, thus, we fall prey to it and the generation of hustlers ultimately becomes a generation of suckers.

What does that make June? A month where suckers hustle making bad internships look good on their Instagram stories. You may think I’m saying this just because I couldn’t score an internship, because I had been too busy swiping on hustlers’ Instagram stories and judging them while listening to Cry Baby by Melanie Martinez. Here’s a win for you, you’re partially correct. Does that make me a slacker? Not so quick.

When you actually think about it, who made hustling cool anyway? Was it Snoop Dogg , Britney Spears or Ariana Grande? That could have been a real philosophical question to focus on but that’s not the point. The point is how popular culture portrays hustling as the panacea for the working class which is something your mom and dad have been telling you your entire life – just without the sick beats. I don’t buy that, in the eternal words of Twenty One Pilots, “we don’t believe what’s on TV.”

Now, you may think I’m your general pop culture trash who looks for moral wisdom in opening bands and tries selling it to people in lifestyle articles by trying too hard to sound witty to compensate for good content. Does that make me a slacker? I will tell you what does.

Last year, around this time I was trying to hustle up so I applied for an internship at Youth Ki Awaaz. This was after I had quit two internships already because I’m a quitter. I had no plans to continue with this one either and had enrolled, honestly, just because I had nothing to do. This was a time when I had confronted the mediocrity of my writing in my creative writing classes and was struggling with college societies.

I have been avoiding this part for so long, i.e. actually writing about my experience.

Looking back at great things that come to an end has always been difficult for me so I try not to think about them at all but like I said, I will tell you. Writing for Youth Ki Awaaz has been quite an experience for multiple reasons. It gave me an outlet where I had real audience on a large scale to interact with and this meant a lot for me because I had never been read by so many people before. I got to do my first interview with an IIT professor and I was so excited when he agreed. That was also the first piece of writing that I ever shared on my social media handle.

At Campus Watch, we covered protests, elections, almost everything that mattered to the students and it felt, I won’t lie, a little powerful. Does it sound like a toast already? Because what’s coming would.

More than anything else I’m thankful to Youth Ki Awaaz for the friendship that I’ve cultivated with people to whom I got connected through this. Reading their works, appreciating their works and learning from them was, well, something. I know I’m bad at presenting word salads and reading my work is the equivalent of watching a YouTube vine compilation but better words were used for my work and made me feel incredibly validated.

My friend and fellow writer, Anahita, once told me how she can’t believe that she likes everybody that she works with in YKA. We had an amazing Editor (also a student) who was one of the reasons why both of us continued for another term with YKA. I had another Editor for the last two months who also turned out to be really great, which is weird, but actually true because you don’t imagine people associated with or working at media houses to be nice.

Second year of college was pretty awful for me, I had quit two internships, the drama society, didn’t quit French classes but quit the idea that I will ever learn the language and almost got hit by a bus. However, something that I didn’t expect at all to work for me eventually worked out and that too pretty well. I don’t know if I could graph my growth using a bar chart but for the first time in my life I actually loved what I did and for that I’m thankful to everyone who made it possible.

Coming back to the whole hustling part, this one year was a year of a lot of realizations. You don’t unnecessarily have to grind yourself over work that you don’t like just because everyone is doing it. If something is killing you and you know it, then quitting it doesn’t make you a slacker or a loser. Your personality should not be reduced to that one sentence in your CV and, I know good resume gets you a scholarship, but it shouldn’t cost you your dignity and mental health to get there. I quit and I found something far better and enduring and writing maybe for the last time for it breaks my heart, like, a little. I’m a quitter but a proud one, does that make me a slacker? You can decide for yourself because I couldn’t care less.

Featured image provided by author.
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