A German philosopher once said, “ordinary people think merely of spending time, great people think of using it.” A quote coined some 200-years-ago, it’s a sentiment I, and other victims of 21st-century productivity culture, have been living for most of our lives. Prior to studying for my masters I would label this work-hard-reap-benefits mentality as common sense. 6k later, however, I have the terminology to call it out for what it is: neoliberalism.
A quick word on that. Neoliberalism is essentially a mode of government that goes hand in hand with capitalism. It’s a way of doing things, and if you’re like me, not necessarily knowing you’re doing them. Neoliberalism values individuality, competition, and entrepreneurialism among other things. It sees citizens as consumers. It makes the rich richer, and the poor poorer. In this dog-eat-dog world, no one is a cat, and by that I mean two things, 1. under this ideology, nobody is exempt: abide to survive/compete or fail, and 2. ain’t nobody got the time to be lounging around all day. We gotta work, work, work baby.
Maybe I’m being too cynical, or maybe I’m having a rare moment of clarity, but either way, I’m fed up. And to be clear, I’m a big believer in hard work. For the most part, I enjoyed school — my reports were good, I never got detention, and nobody ever had to ask me to do my homework. Saying this, I had balance. My self-worth wasn’t just a number on a sheet. Simply put, I had a life.
Some years later at university, however, my therapist noticed my scales were off balance. Tale as old as time. My values were misaligned. My self-worth was now what I had feared – a number on a sheet. Great when I’d done well (read: excelled) at something… not so great when I hadn’t. I craved reassurance. The future was fucking terrifying, and I’d convinced myself I just had to be the best of the best to ‘get anywhere’ in life. I was doing an arts degree after all. (Out with the old and in with the new: art for corporate’s sake has replaced art for art’s sake in the world’s worst trade.)
Coming up to the present day and not much has changed. Whilst my self-esteem may have improved, I can’t argue that the future doesn’t scare me anymore. And so, like many other 20-something’s, I’ve become a portfolio. Grabbing at every opportunity that comes my way like it’s going to be my last. Bruised from throwing myself at unpaid jobs disguised as *opportunities*. Tired of juggling ‘Danni the human’ and ‘Danielle the portfolio’, I often find myself neglecting the former in favor of the latter. And I know I’m not the only one.
With that being said, I want to take back my life. And if you’re anything like me, I urge you to do the same. Working yourself to the bone can only get you so far in life, and with it comes many costs: friends, sleep, and motivation among many. For my sanity, and faith in humanity, I have to believe that there’s another path to ‘making it’ than this one. Because this isn’t it…
Forget dull — all work and no play makes Jack a damn depressed boy.
Image courtesy of Luis Villasmil.