Let’s denormalize the “Grindset”

Lets denormalize the Grindset

It’s 4:30 in the morning. 

You’re puffy-eyed and studying for a test, replying to emails and contemplating all your life decisions all at the same time instead of sleeping like you should be.

Fast forward a few hours and you’re home after a tiring day of juggling school, extracurriculars and a social life, sitting at your desk with a massive pile of work to do. You think you ate enough (if a couple granola bars and yogurt cups is enough) to pull another all-nighter. Hopefully you’ll be able to sleep by 1 a.m. this time.

Source: 89 students surveyed via Google Forms on Nov. 21-30, 2023. (Cynthia Salinas)

Deep down, you know that this is going to take another massive swing at your physical and mental health. But it’s supposedly alright because you’re being productive and everyone else is doing it too.

The grind never stops, after all… but the question remains: at what point should it stop?

I’d be lying if I said I was never a part of the hustle culture that’s taken the United States by storm over the past few years. Growing up with immigrant parents, I have always been taught that if you want anything at all, you must work for it and shouldn’t expect success to be handed to you on a silver platter.

After all, to be a good artist, you need to be willing to spend hours honing your craft. To be a successful athlete, you need to be ready to put immense effort into developing the perfect swing, the strongest kick, the fastest sprint. To be a successful student, you need to be able to put in the time and work needed to understand a concept and enhance your knowledge. There are no shortcuts.

While this school of thought is beneficial – and true to an extent – the mentality of “respecting the grind” takes it to the harmful extreme.

It’s not unlikely that you may have come across a social media influencer flaunting their productive lifestyle with hashtags such as “#grind,” “#hustle” and #buildyourempire,” painting a picture of success that isn’t possible for everyone. Given that social media is an integral part of many of our lives, it can be difficult to recognize this image of perfection as what it is – a fabricated image.

Even if they were true, it’s still not a good idea to mimic this behavior blindly. The “motivational” quotes about how you’re wasting your life if you sleep in on a Saturday morning and how billionaires wake up at four in the morning may push you to work more, but it’s not a sustainable lifestyle.

It’s impossible to live a fulfilling life by neglecting your physical and mental health – and everything that makes you human – in favor of endlessly laboring over tasks that only drain you in the end.

This mentality led me to dropping my lunch my sophomore year. I bit off much more than I could chew, in hopes of achieving more and being “good enough.” While I was initially able to handle the stress of one less free period and an extra AP class, over time it affected my physical and mental health poorly.

I slowly found myself doing less of what I love and hanging out with my friends less. As the pile of homework on my desk grew, the art supplies in my closet continued to gather dust. I skipped meals and pulled all-nighters to work on assignments. My anxiety worsened and I began to base my entire worth on my grades.

I will admit that I am unlearning this mentality right now; I still have to remind myself to say “no” to things that I know will eventually overstimulate me. I’m still trying to recognize that doing so doesn’t equate to missing out on opportunities. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

I’m able to sleep and eat a healthy amount now and find time to spend with my friends. I’m able to enjoy my classes and put more effort into my work. I have more time to spend on my hobbies and grow as a person. These are things that will stay with me far longer than my high school GPA.

To be a good artist, you must spend hours honing your craft, but not at the cost of your sleep. To be a successful athlete, you need to put immense effort, but not by skipping meals to go to the gym instead. To be a good student, you need to spend time learning, but not at the expense of missing out on the more leisurely, fun aspects of being in high school.

To anyone who needs to hear this: no, you’re not weak for choosing not to take a class that you knew would affect you negatively. No, you’re not weak for choosing to prioritize your physical and mental health over participating in activities that may prove to be detrimental to them. And you never will be.

Looking forward to next semester, let’s ditch the grind, and focus on living more whole, fulfilling lives.

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