There is an image I have of myself when I imagine being productive: it usually involves endlessly typing and clicking at a computer for 4-6 hours straight, pausing briefly to take a sip of my melting iced almond milk latte before diving back into the fray. I imagine posting a picture of my well manicured nails on Instagram with the caption "workworkwork", in the hopes that it will make people think that not only am I a productive little bunny but that I’m a productive little bunny with important shit to do and the discipline to do it. It’s a false image but one that I can't help but obsess over. Truth be told, I have never sat at my computer for more than 2 hours without taking a break. I often feel more productive cleaning my space, reading a book for more than 30 mins or other things that aren't as easily Instagrammable. I don't feel like I work hard because I can't claim a "hustle" and the things I do aren't worthy of bragging about. And knowing that makes me feel like a failure.
The other day, I read an article about the myth of the self-made millennial and how we’ve continued to glorify “hard work” and entrepreneurship as the markers of success. We’ve glorified the hustle: waking up at 4am to work on side projects when you went to sleep just hours before, or taking on internships and volunteering while juggling a full course load. Despite the constant push for work-life balance, it seems like we just spend every moment working or thinking about work. Oh capitalism! And it’s easy to get caught up in it all because it can look so glamorous, whether it's Instagram posts or the shiny cover of Forbes. You look at all these seemingly shiny lives and you can't help but buy into the idea that one day your life will be that shiny, and being sick and filled with dread all the time will be worth it.
While it’s not that horrible of a thing to want to work a lot and gain financial success, it seems like we're buying into well-crafted stories that make our realities look like failures. Because if you're not staying up late to build your business, what are you doing with your life? If you're not finding a way to monetize and popularize your creative pursuits, is there really a point? It feels like if you're not using every waking moment to do something #productive, you're wasting time. And that's a scary way to think.
There is a crippling fear and anxiety that comes with wanting to prove yourself worthy of existing in a world that prides being “self-made” and making a lot of money and finding a lot of success at a young age. It’s the fear that makes you feel like a failure because you're 20, still in university and working in retail. I guess my whole life is going to be a flop. It’s a ridiculous fear. It doesn’t matter if you’re successful at 20 or 40 or 85, because there is no time limit to success, no matter how you define it. Whenever I'm about to descend into a shame spiral because I feel like I'm not doing the mostest, I remember that Taraji P. Henson moved to LA when she was 27 to start acting and hasn’t really seen mainstream success until much recently. She's 47!
I’m 20 years old and still in university. I haven’t started a business or cultivated a personal brand, and I still work in retail. But I’ve got time. 60 more years if I'm lucky. Because nothing is over until I'm dead.