Breaking the Chain: Reflections on the Hard-Working Lifestyle and its Impact on the Younger Generations

Work till you drop” – the mantra to not think too much about hard truths and the future. My escape from overthinking and yours too (at least for 4 minutes)!

Sandy does yoga, she works a 40-hour-(low paid) internship, she has a boyfriend and a social life. She frequents the same supermarkets as you do, drinks matcha-latte (one, two, three, four cups before noon), buys the same make-up-brands (fenty, milk, glossier) just to flourish on the knowledge that she now actually has the choice to not use them, because she thinks she doesn’t need make-up. I know Sandy, you know Sandy. We all are at least a bit of a Sandy.

We normalized working our butts off, especially in our early years, while we still believe the lie that we implemented the phrase “your body is a temple” in our day-to-day lives.  This is the reason why we balance work, studies, social life and physical activities.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am myself part of this machinery – everything Sandy does, I do too, I realized my inner-Sandy and let her out. I started to wonder about my future concerning life and (widely-known and feared) work life balance, as Corona cancelled all of my plans: I couldn’t go to Ghana as planned in autumn, I just had finished school and was standing there with no plan and a whole lot of time. Time to myself – time with myself and believe me, it was almost (un)bearable. The first few days were rather good – I met friends, read books, watched Netflix. 10 days in I started getting restless – I started running, swimming, cleaning but nothing helped.

I work now, starting university in autumn in a different city to become a cosmopolitan and to kind of “shorten my roots” from my rather rural upbringing. I am happy, I work and do everything except sleep – this is the lifestyle we brought up to cherish. We- Generation Y and Z. “Only hard work pays off”, I can hear my mum saying it (she works 80-hours-per week). I feel happy and I thrive in this system, I have to admit. Burn-outs are a rather new phenomenon and can be found in every field of work. What a terrible feeling to not be able to get up from one day to the next. Still, every time I hear of a new “victim” – there is a light prickle in my belly-area – another one has fallen because of the standards of the (often non- physical) job market. How long will I last?

Of “Girlbosses” and “Dishwashers” 

I simply don’t know why we do all of that: I mean we live in wealth, our grandparents started working for that (in central Europe). We exploit people to live our lives, sadly. We normalized this behavior, sadly.

We learn at school to nod and say “yes these conditions in Burma (Vietnam, India, Cambodia, Pakistan…) are terrible”. Still, we shop fast-fashion. The same with our food: I think everyone has at least heard of the shocking documentation “Super-Size-Me”, in which an American journalist eats only McDonalds for 30 days straight for every meal. He had a fatty liver at the end of it and serious health problems. Still, once again, we love fast-food and TREAT ourselves with it on “cheat days”.

We work 40-hours plus a week to be even able to state: “Yes, man, I have been soooo busy but everything is good yes!” over cocktails with our old friends from college. Terms to actually empower like “Girlboss” or “from dishwasher to millionaire” helped to normalize the absurd behavior of humankind.

Distraction and illusion

“Work till you drop”. Literally. You can’t retire before the age of 65 these days. And it is good like that, right? I mean I couldn’t handle it any other way. Think about all the free time we would have – so much time with our thoughts and energy to actually think about the real problems and crisis we as a collective will have to solve in the coming decades. I couldn’t handle it. Therefore, I wrote this little piece, to occupy myself, I work(ed). I will now go for a swim, see my boyfriend, meditate and then skip supper, because I ate a big portion of pasta for lunch. Detox.

Life is all about balance!

At last, my body is a temple!

(Wo)man, you know it’s true – what would all these yoga instructors do, if life was any other way?