Workaholism Isn’t Cute And The Hustle Doesn’t Deserve To Be Romanticized

Hi, my name is Trinity, and I’m a recovering workaholic.

I graduated from San Diego State in May and I have more senior year memories of working past midnight rather than exploring the city’s nightlife.

Mentors told me getting involved on campus was the key to surviving college, so I joined clubs that improved my academic, spiritual and personal growth in order to acclimate to university culture.

I became a dedicated student leader and the influence I had at school spanned across multiple communities. The work I put in to leave a legacy at my alma mater was vigorous.

In addition to that, I pursued professional ventures outside of campus. But having too many obligations was one quick way I experienced burnout and inconvenient anxiety.

According to The New York Times, burnout is “a manifestation of chronic unmitigated stress.”

When burnt out, college students can experience decreased motivation that leads to a drop in academic interest and performance, social activities, and face physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping and changes in appetite.

Even though I knew this was my crippling reality, I didn’t plan to slow down because I knew I was a hard worker — and hard work was going to get a broke college kid with many expenses, a paycheck.

It would also guarantee an even better job after graduation — and it did present unique options when it was time to enter the workplace.

Navigating campus involvements that offer paid positions is difficult because they don’t always feel like a job, but the downside of that is spending extended periods of time in the workplace.

College is often the first time students encounter professionalism, so of course they will experience unhealthy relationships with work in the beginning. When this happens, it’s imperative to have resources readily available on campus.

Growing up as a straight-A orchestra kid who was taught to perpetuate the Black excellence narrative in everything I do, the expressions “hard work pays off,” “practice makes perfect” and “there’s nowhere to go but up” were instilled in me .

I was always expected to perform well, which drove me to chase a permanent perception of success that dates back to grade school. That cycle produced an internal pressure to tolerate an unhealthy addiction to work before my college career ended.

I had the spending habits of a college student, but lacked the academic motivation of a college student. I didn’t sleep or eat well because I was always on the go.

I couldn’t manage my time or my relationships and everything always seemed to be falling apart, forcing me to learn the hard way what a work-life balance is.

Hustle culture is widely accepted by young people and it’s something I fell into way too fast. When I was running from job to meeting to job back to meeting in my senior year of college, I was trying to romanticize the hustler in me.

The term “workaholism” was first used in 1971 by psychologist Wayne Oates, and he defined it as a compulsion or an uncontrollable need to work incessantly.

My friends would jokingly call me a workaholic, never missing an opportunity to tell me that I worked too much and that I should spend more time in leisure instead.

Taking their concern into consideration, I completed a few online quizzes to see if I had workaholic characteristics, and the results stated that I was severely overworked. One even recommended I join a workaholics anonymous support group for dire assistance.

Except I didn’t need to take a quiz to tell me I was addicted to work. It just made me accept that it was my truth.

Developing bad coping mechanisms and habits throughout college is sadly all too common. Workaholism was mine, and it took a long time for me to start calling it by its real name.

Craving familiarity in this lonely post-grad era is more than normal, so my bad coping mechanisms easily resurfaced and didn’t stay in college as I expected. In a transitional atmosphere where everything is unpredictable and moving too fast, there are so many things to process and navigate.

Since graduating, there was a point where I worked three full-time jobs at once, just to feel something — or really, to not feel something.

Working constantly seemed reasonable because it occupied my time, it paid my bills but it rapidly returned into the emotional neglect I knew all too well.

People admired me for apparently being able to juggle that type of workload, but those closest to me knew that it wasn’t easy — although I went out of my way to make it look like it — and that I was really suffering.

Historically, it has been a multi-generational expectation for Black women to be superheroes who work themselves to the bone, without making nearly enough time and space for self-care.

Non-Black counterparts and superiors already regard us as inadequate, so that systematic belief that I can handle anything is something that heavily affected my workaholic tendencies.

But asking for help when I need it works wonders because after all, my support system is there for a reason.

So in this stage of my workaholism recovery, I’m reclaiming my time to pursue soft peace, fruitful relationships and guilt-free rest.

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