Monday, 15 August 2016


It’s time for us to stop perpetuating the obscene notion that if you’re not busy, you’re not trying hard enough.

The idea for this blog post came to me a couple of weeks ago, fourth cigarette and 167435435th mental breakdown into a miserably grey Wednesday afternoon. Perched in my garden with nothing but a wooden chair and a golf umbrella to separate me from the pouring rain, and wearing only a pair of Umbro sports shorts and a leopard print coat, I was in the middle of my most recent existential crisis. For the trillionth time since finishing University at the end of May, I found myself panicking about the future and what it holds for me. As usual when crisis strikes, I turned to my ever-faithful Whatsapp group for comfort. Thoughts were tumbling out of my head and onto my frantic typing fingers at a million miles an hour, and none of them were particularly positive.

What the fuck am I going to do now??
Move to London? Travel the world? Build a fort in the Amazon?

The post-uni hiatus I am currently in the crux of affords me and a lot of other graduates the luxury of free time and plenty of mental space – a winning combination for dreams to be cultivated and inspiration to strike. However, with mental space and more control over my own life than I’ve probably ever had, I’m encountering daily periods of sporadic but overwhelming panic. Thankfully, (and perhaps worryingly), I know I’m not alone. In the digital age we’re all living in, we are bound on an everyday basis by an incomprehensible amount of pressure to succeed.

“Has my Instagram hit 11 likes yet?” “Why is no-one liking my hilarious tweet?” “God I need to get that blog post published tonight or I might actually die.” 

All seemingly laughable worries, but with social media allowing us to make CONSTANT checks on what everyone and their dog is doing at any given moment, comparison and the pressure to do well in EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE EVER is a very real problem facing us millennials (side note: are you as sick of that word as I am?). Granted, we’re not completely to blame for the comparison climate we’re currently living in. We’re the generation who ran out of the school gates filled with aspiration and dreams, to be met by miserable news headlines and the poorest job market our nation has seen in years. As a result, we’ve adopted a hyper-motivated mindset which implores us to overwork in order to succeed. Whilst it’s brilliant that our dreams and the motivation that stems from setting goals drives us forward each day, the path to promised ‘success’ is gruelling. Unsurprisingly, I’ve not seen anyone Instagram that phrase in italics over a picture of a sprawling sunset.

As a twenty one year old female, I’m currently existing somewhere in the soul-scrambling realm between being a teenage girl and a real life bill-paying, job-having adult woman. Not a girl, not yet a woman. Britney eat your heart out. This is already a confusing enough stage of life to be in, but add social media and the #DailyGrind mantras that dominate our feeds and it’s a bloody shit show. We should be pushing ourselves to blog more, work out more, network more, be more. We’re overwhelmed with seemingly positive affirmations that if you work hard, you’ll succeed. Perhaps I’m not giving the rest of you enough credit here, but I know when I read motivational quotes like the aforementioned, I’m thinking of ‘success’ in terms of pinning a picture of my photoshopped head onto an image of a supermodel’s body, or squinting at a laptop in the darkness trying to desperately conjure up a project I’ve taken on despite knowing I was far too busy. I’m not thinking of success as the feeling of being happy in my own skin, or the knowledge that I completely and utterly love whatever project I’m pouring myself into. 

I’m thinking of success as a signposted destination I’m trying to reach. A destination up the top of a very rocky cliff. Which I’m scaling with a toothpick.

Of late, I’ve found myself in a horribly unhealthy cycle of guilt. Guilt when I have a day off work – why aren’t I picking up extra shifts to save money? Guilt when I watch another film on Netflix instead of writing – do I even want to be a journalist? Guilt when I’m laughing with my friends instead of pouring every drop of my being into creating a future for myself. This is exhausting. I am exhausted. After yet another string of panicked texts to a friend, one night recently she replied with one of the most simple yet effective reminders I’ve received: “you can’t be successful if you aren’t well rested,” - a practical, grounding sentence which suddenly brought back to earth the distant, unreachable notion of success. It’s true that success doesn’t happen without hard work, but it’s even truer that the waterfall of pseudo-motivational thoughts we’re all drowning under hinders our chance at happiness even further. I found some wise words on the subject from Charly Cox, one of my favourite writers:

"We are often foolish in that we let our obsession with creation, following the force of sizzling anxiety and adrenaline to put the intangible into a product, take over the bare materials we need to do it well: living. Taking stock and thinking. Reading, watching, crying, eating.

Our brains don't just stop because we're not wrist deep in paint or late night loomed in stanzas.

They're preparing for the next project.

They're recuperating, tidying tiny pieces into their boxes to make enough room to lay out the new ones."
As usual, Charly’s hit the nail on the head. It’s time for us to stop perpetuating the obscene notion that if you’re not busy, you’re not trying hard enough. I’m over it, you’re probably over it, yet here we are, still buying into the notion that we MUST.DO.MORE. What I’m trying to say, in this long and rambling post, is that it’s time to reclaim the path which leads to success and redesign it for ourselves. Your worth is not inherently intertwined with how many boxes you’ve checked off or how many rungs you’ve climbed. Of course I want a career I’m proud of, and side projects to boast about with my friends, but I also want to sleep. And eat 3 packets of Wotsits on the trot. And watch so many episodes of Friends that I actually BECOME Jennifer Aniston.

You are allowed to look after yourself. You are allowed to have a break. You are allowed to (whisper it) *have fun*. You shouldn’t feel guilty for allowing yourself time to experience the things that make you feel happy, be that binge watching a TV series or saying no to a morning work-out in favour of sleeping in. It’s all helping you grow.

Sara x

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