Burnout and Branding

The workaholic lifestyle creating exhausted students

I am tired; not in a way that an extra couple hours of sleep can fix. I have simply burned out. At this point in my life, it appears as if I exist to produce, to work. I wake up hours before school begins to prepare for upcoming tests and projects. Throughout my day I’m constantly running around juggling responsibilities, and yet I still have hours of work to do after school, that endlessly spills over into the next day until the weekends are full of work and there seems to be no time at all. I see this phenomenon everywhere. In the troubled faces of my friends worrying about workloads on Saturday nights, or the bags under seemingly everyone’s eyes.

Even worse, in times where I find myself without an assignment, without work to prepare for. I wonder what to do with myself. I feel stressed because I have no work to do, which should never be a regular occurence, but is for many students in our community struggling to keep up with the pressure of a rigorous academic environment.

This workaholic lifestyle has gotten to the point where I actively avoid doing mundane, small tasks out of pure exhaustion. I can write three papers in the span of a day, but can’t seem to put away my clothes, or change the oil on my car. All of these tasks, needed to sustain day to day life, seem incredibly daunting.

Strangely, the constant working isn’t stressful to me. It feels completely normal. These chores, or errands, are the real stressors that lead to an overwhelming guilt. This is where I begin to acknowledge that there’s a problem with how I operate.

As the rigorous academic environment requires so much of myself, I use the spare hours in a day to completely turn my brain off. I have no interests in going for a run, or being productive in any way, as I simply see free time as a break from the constant work, rather than a time to explore interests or spend time with friends. I’m simply too exhausted to cultivate hobbies or engage in social activities. I’m burnt out entirely, but to everything but schoolwork. I’ve incorporated it into my life and left everything else in the margins. In a way I feel that I’ve become my work, and possibly nothing else.

The simple answer comes from an increasing phenomenon of burnout. Buzzfeed recently named millennials “the burnout generation,” and while none of us here at the upper school are millennials, we suffer from the same external and internal pressures given to us by an upbringing in the 21st century.

I don’t believe social media is the monster we all make it out to be, but I do believe its significantly shifted the way we see ourselves. The term “branding” has increased in use over the past decade, where it is being used to refer to building a personal style indicative of one’s individuality. On social media, “so on brand for me” referring to individuals can be heard frequently, where people art actively trying to market themselves, similar to a product.

In an increasingly competitive college admissions and job market, we must become the full package. We are taught that we must be the best, that working harder is always better than resting. “Grind” culture places an immense pressure to perform in all facets of life, perpetuating the idea of ourselves as products.

If we become products, we leave out the part of youth that’s meant to be enjoyed and used to explore personal interests. The nature of the world requires so much more of today’s youth than in previous generations, leaving us no room to truly be kids. To make mistakes. To waste time. To be stupid and have fun.

I suggest we force ourselves to find these moments, no matter how hard it may seem. We should resist the urge to exist only to get the grades we desire, or to turn in assignments on time. We are more than students, and we should be practicing that. I’m not suggesting that you don’t work hard, just that you remember who you are beyond the four walls of the Northrop campus.