This letter is concerning everything wrong with you right now. At a time when everyone’s sense of normal has been disrupted, why do we feel the need to be productive?
Is it because of you that we have been taught since we were kids, to not just be better, but to be the best? I remember my mom would make me wear a shiny new outfit just to be able to show Natasha aunty that her kid is not the only one who can wear good clothes. Going back to school after vacation, we were always met with teachers who asked us if we did anything ‘useful’. We were judged for merely eating lunch during a break, we were meant to be studying.
When did taking a break turn into a sin?
Hustle culture has been deeply rooted in our lives, reinforced by institutions, family, and social media. Your education system has become a baseline that defines our morals and values. And my school embedded this intoxicating culture within me. Within most of us. We were expected to push beyond limits and ‘reach the stars.’ But what we were not taught, was how to cope when we can’t seem to achieve the impossible.
The difference between A and A+ was made to feel like it was worth more than just 0.5 marks. This hustle culture has cost us immensely during the lockdown and I blame you for it.
Along with dealing with turmoil and broken routines, we are also facing constant pressure to be active. Conditioned to hustle at the cost of physical and mental health has overpowered us with feelings of guilt for not doing ‘enough’.
Colleges forcing students to submit assignments because ‘You have no work to do anyway’ is a classic example of propagation of toxic productivity.
Your institutions have not only failed to take into consideration the sheer lack of resources during lockdown (internet, study material) but have also set unrealistic expectations for students to prioritize education over mental health.
Social media which once functioned as a distraction, now became a negative space for those who could only manage to tick one thing off their to-do list: waking up. ‘How-to’ guides and tips on being productive did not include the fact our world was turned upside down.
As a young student trying to fill the gaps that 2020 created in my resume, I am terrified to enter this space you have created. The world that rolls its eyes at self-care and self-love. The world which in the midst of suffering and pain, was obsessed with being the most self-optimizing version of themselves.
Looking forward to a kinder world.
A struggling 19-year-old.