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By Jessica Zang

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About this blog: I’m Jessica Zang, a Palo Alto-born, slightly cynical Gunn High School student who’s passionate about linking high school life to the bigger picture. What’s really going on in our high schools in Palo Alto? Everything a high ...  (More)

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The toxic world of hustle culture

Uploaded: Nov 15, 2020
During the summer and pressured by new acquaintances, I made a LinkedIn account, which I have barely checked since. The website, while a valuable networking resource, is personally exhausting to look at. With #productivity and #hustle populating the ends of lengthy, preach-like posts, I often ask myself if I’m doing enough with my time. Am I maximizing my hours and my short life on this planet? Time is money, so I should do as much with it as possible, right?

While hustle culture doesn’t come with ill intent, it is most definitely an exaggerated lifestyle. As important success is to living a good life, spending every waking minute accomplishing a goal is incredibly taxing, not to mention unrealistic. The idea that we should be treating ourselves as tools to success is toxic; I find it almost laughable how we subject ourselves to these unrealistic standards and take ourselves so seriously. And maybe I’m the only one who hasn’t been productive lately and I’m just jealous, but I believe that there is much, much more to life than work.

There’s a difference between being productive while still balancing motivation, social interaction, and mental health, versus grinding all day, every day, sacrificing sleep while losing valuable relationships. At some point, I’d imagine that a person would forget about the outside world, that there is still so much out there left unexplored. Because in all honesty, what are we working for? Maybe I am too young to understand, but I would like to think that we go through life to experience, to love, and to feel. Although I’m not idealistic enough to ignore the financial pressures that accompany growing up, I often wonder: if I tirelessly chase after success for my whole life, how will I feel when I’ve succeeded? How will I even know if I’ve succeeded?

Hopefully one day I will stop beating myself up for leaving my to-do list unfinished or taking hours to do seemingly simple tasks. For now, though, I worry about my biology test and let my frenzied brain count the seconds as night begins to fall.
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 +   10 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Nov 15, 2020 at 6:29 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Jessica -- Well said. And, yes -- you'll know when you've succeeded. Enjoying life is more important than success, but you can experience both!

Good luck with your biology test!

 +   10 people like this
Posted by PA family, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Nov 16, 2020 at 1:06 pm

PA family is a registered user.

Hi Jessica!

Great that you're thinking out of the box. Enjoy your youth! You're only a teenager for a short time. Don't let it pass by too quickly! And good luck on the test!

 +   5 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 17, 2020 at 9:22 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"I often wonder: if I tirelessly chase after success for my whole life, how will I feel when I've succeeded?

^ Depends on how you personally define 'success'.

>"How will I even know if I've succeeded?"

^ Your inner voice will confirm or deny this query.

 +   7 people like this
Posted by panative, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 17, 2020 at 10:40 am

panative is a registered user.

Jessica, your generation has so much to contend with, and the prevalence of hustle culture in our larger community (hello Silicon Valley) can only add more stress. It may not be much of a salve for what you are feeling, but I will tell you that your generation gives so many of us so much hope. It's incredibly inspiring to witness your honesty in how you show up, share your views, and fearlessly advocate for things that are important to you. Your thoughtful op ed is yet more evidence of this - bravo, thank you, hang in there, and don't worry about biology.

 +   16 people like this
Posted by Well said, Jessica. , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 17, 2020 at 12:17 pm

Well said, Jessica. is a registered user.

When I was your age, I visted my grandmother in a care facility where she was dying. I wasn't ready to accept that I was about to lose her, but she made me face it. We had a wonderful, long conversation about life, love, work and family that I have carried all my life.

She was, at that point, almost blind and suffering from painful osteoporosis. At 94, the brittle bones in her spine had begun collapsing. She must have been in agony, but she was lovingly present for me. She said, "You know, at my age, all we have are memories. We can't really do much to make more, so the life we have is largely in our minds--reliving the life the we've experienced. Make good memories. In the end, your memories will be all you have...and it will be what you leave behind with others."

Those words changed the way I lived my life thereafter. Thank you, Grandma. I still miss you...and remember you with dearest love.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Midtown Parent, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:31 pm

Midtown Parent is a registered user.

I enjoyed very much reading your piece, Jessica. Wanted to share the following two quotes.

“There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Gandhi

“Life is a succession of moments, to live each one is to succeed." - Corita Kent

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