*The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous.
For the past decade, a lot of us have naively given into the hustle culture lifestyle that has led us to spiral into burnout. Even GirlBoss themselves have asked themselves, “is hustle culture actually hurting us?” Add on the pressures of being a first-generation Latina, and it becomes an easy recipe for total dysregulation of our emotional, physical and mental health.
As the daughter of a single mother, I had already faced difficult situations caused by financial hardships, family drama, discrimination, living in unsafe or impoverished areas, and food insecurity– all in-between the dream of becoming somebody. I had taken on the pressures and anxieties of becoming the defender, the provider, and a cycle breaker, and frankly, I was burned out. Experiencing burnout is often linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety, and worsens the effects of generational trauma.
But here’s the thing. I had subscribed to the hustle culture lifestyle, one in which people of color and children of immigrants innately live given the systems put into place that often require us to work double as hard compared to our white counterparts – who have glamorized hustle culture. Add on the mounting list of cultural expectations and the pace and weight were flammable.
During a time when my family and I were on the brink of becoming homeless, a high school counselor told me that I would never get into a good college. I was determined to prove him wrong, to prove the statistics wrong, and change the narrative. For the next three years, while constantly moving houses, and switching schools, I submerged myself into the world of how to get into the best college. With that, I took on ten extracurriculars, became the president of multiple school clubs, took on a cashier job at my local grocery store, and after being recommended to AP English Literature courses, took on as many AP and Honor courses my school offered. All I knew was hustle culture.
I became so used to working under competition, that I would prioritize my accomplishments over my well-being– all for the goal of achieving something. I had completely isolated myself and pushed myself to the point where it was costing my emotional, mental, and physical health. If I felt like I wasn’t productive enough, I would feel guilty and undeserving. I felt selfish to even think about taking time off for myself or giving a morning completely towards my wellbeing.
It had been years of hustling until my dream of attending Harvard University came to a halt. Senior year was coming to an end, I was confident, proud of my achievements, but extremely exhausted. Con todo, I wrote my stressed-out life story as my college essay.
Then, November came. The early action results came out, and I was deferred. It wasn’t a rejection, nor a full-on acceptance. It was a – give us more time to think about it.
We have been so accustomed to pushing aside the emotional aspects of our lives for the sake of reaching a type of materialistic goal. Even if it will cost our relationships, our health, and the desires we have for our lives that don’t include our career goals. I realized that this should not be the motto for my life.
So, on the day of my high school graduation, I left the U.S and moved to Europe. I was tired of fighting an endless fight that was just going to acabar conmigo. An Italian saying I’ve been reciting to myself since arriving in Italy has been “Dolce far niente” – the sweetness of doing nothing. Meaning to take the time to relax, unapologetically. It’s not a reward, it’s your right. And no one can criticize you for that.
I’ve started to incorporate practices like Siesta, a common practice in the Mediterranean, and Latin America. I remember my mamí telling me stories of her life in Colombia. Where hours-long, mid-day breaks are the norm. Working and paying bills are important but, taking the time to cook delicious home-made meals, to have a merienda con café y un pastel and interact with your friends and family, to relax and take a nap, or freshen up to take on the rest of your day was a traditional practice I’ve tragically missed out on. This is how bonds are formed, traditional and ancestral knowledge kept, and emotional and mental health maintained.
I had made up my mind then. I realized that I don’t desire titles or materialistic luxuries. I desire the most simple, and basic things, without fighting so much for them. Which was the accessibility to healthy, affordable food, drinkable tap water, nature, peace, and safety. I wanted to spend more time with my family, I wanted to have enough, and begin appreciating the simple pleasures of life.
No quería nada más.
Now, when I run down the mountain filled with olive trees and wild herbs, and into a medieval village where I take a small bus along with other students, down into the valley– I hear them laughing as we pass by green hills filled with hay, farms with horses, sheep, and donkeys. I wonder to myself,
What if I grew up like this?