The hustle generation: an unwanted badge of honour

For many, the thought of a nine til five is sheer perfection. Routine, stability, and security; all things we crave in this mad max post apocalyptic economic climate. We once wanted the freedom and ambition of self-employment, but in these uncertain times we have looked back to the ease of simpler times. It almost sounds like the work of fiction that a singular job could provide you with a stable income, a decent pension, and safety. But the reality for a generation that has now lived through two recessions is one of multiple part time jobs, bargain hunting, and side hustles.

There is, of course, no shame in the side hustle, but for many it has become a necessary source of income instead of the passion project dreams are made of. I admire the determination and will of pursuing your dream on the side, or simply just attempting to boost your income. But at what point does a side hustle become the prostitution of our passions, pleasures, and hobbies?

The side hustle has always existed. In our youth we may walk dogs, babysit, or do the local paper round for a few extra quid. And as we grow older we may look to online surveys and eBay to top up our humble paycheck. In this digital era there is now a plethora of ways to hustle. We now sell our clothes on Depop for the chance of getting a decent offer on a once beloved vintage tee, or rent a spare room on AirBnB so we can buy that much needed new mattress. All these ventures give us the much-welcomed opportunity to increase our income on our own terms.

Despite the fantasy of freedom and flexibility, the reality is we forfeit our evenings and weekends for loneliness and burnout. We hear Elon Musk brag of his 100 hour + work week and assume that we must partake in the same extreme workaholism to reach such heights of “success”. In reality the rhetoric of these statements just encourages a toxic culture of hyper productivity. As a society we now value productivity over self, and that can be nothing but harmful.

Naturally the #girlboss movement and similar social cults have also left us fatigued, isolated, and forever in need of a mocha latte. I love to hear a supportive “yas queen” from my friends as we collectively wipe our tired eyes and sigh before returning to another few hours of staring at our laptop screens in an overpriced independent café. But surely we deserve a break from the perpetual grind. Again, the girlboss ethos has become one of constant productivity and unattainable career success, instead of the uplifting feminist platform it aimed to be.

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(Illustration by Liam Skillen)

Influencer culture has also amplified the “need” for multiple streams of income. We see these counterfeit celebrities monetizing all aspects of their lives: sponsorships, video content, book deals and so on. And we look up to these false idols with star struck eyes, assuming to be as successful we must do the same. They encourage us to partake in the same toxic culture of “rise and grind”, selling off our true freedom, our private lives, for the possibility of some sort of success.

But the reality is all these factors are the systemic result of a hyper-capitalised society. The relentless pressure to be constantly productive stems from the need to be continually pursuing wealth and money. Because of this pressure we are now more stressed when simply doing nothing or attempting to relax. Rest and relaxation is now a luxury, rather than the much needed recharge we all so desperately need. After all, time is money. Time has been comodified to such an extreme we feel guilt and shame for taking time for ourselves.

What is needed is a reclamation of our time, rest, and leisure. That is not to say it is essential to give up your weekend hustle, or twilight grind. But maybe its time to accept that coffee date with a friend, or go to the park and read a book guilt free. And maybe reclaiming a portion of our time will also allow us to recover and rest, and perform better within our usual work hours anyway.

The hustle may be a necessary evil, but as a generation can we sustain such excruciating working hours? It is obvious that we must reclaim our evenings as much needed healing time, rather than a sinful act of idleness.

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