Real Talk: The Hustle and Grind

“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”
– Oprah Winfrey

One of my dearest people and I were chatting about life, the universe, and everything recently, as one is want to do as the end of a year closing in and makes one introspective. While our lives are not running parallel, we both looked back on the previous few years with a shared sense of, well, exhaustion. We have had a busy time and while we both have many successes to look back on, we’ve also shared a lot of hard work that simply did not pay off…or had really bad luck/timing/people affect us in inopportune ways.

My annus horribilis was mostly 2014-2015, with some bleed over into 2016. I am still managing some of the long term fallout of that period over two years later, including not insignificant health issues and career impact. My beloved friend has had several years in a row now where, right around the holiday season, something deeply disruptive has occurred–sometimes personal and sometimes professional. Each of us has relied on the other during these times to get up, dust off, and keep going…a prospect less and less attractive each time around. We can do it, of course. We’re young, educated, able bodied, and driven…but that doesn’t mean we enjoy all of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

“All this hustle had better pay of,” we not-joked with one another.

The thing about the hustle and grind…is that you get tired and ground down sometimes. I’m not at all surprised that “self care” (as overused as the term is) is having a cultural moment; it comes on the heels of the previous cultural moment where we were all Leaning In and Being French and Not Getting Fat and any number of other motivational mantras. We are tired!

I’ve been trying to think about this a bit whilst on holiday, as part of my upcoming Year of Discipline. More hustle is definitely going to be required to get through it successfully. Is it all still worth it to me?

Would I trade living in one of the most exciting and competitive cities in the world for something more mundane? Nope. I love it there. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that the past five years haven’t been challenging at times. I’ve taken risks and fallen flat more than once. I’ve freelanced and worked full time, been promoted, been let go, consulted, contracted, and recently branched out into an adjacent field to my industry. It’s all been interesting, but it has been far from a smooth upward trend. It’s taken five years for my husband and I to feel even remotely “established” and we’re still looking down the barrel of a lot of sociopolitical uncertainty which may yet derail, or at least significantly impact, our ambitions.

A lot of amazing things have happened in the last five years, but a lot of downright shitty things have happened too. I lost the last of my faith. I switched industries, with some financial backsliding involved. The country that we’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money to live in decided to leave the EU, thereby throwing a lot of long term options completely into the dustbin and leaving more questions than answers. We’re still figuring things out, which means we’re still hustling.

And yet, for all of that, yes. The hustle is still worth it to me. I see glimmers of it paying off the way I hope it will…and even if it doesn’t, if the last five years have taught me anything it’s that failure or disappointment is not as fatal as I once feared it was. I’m glad to have learned that, even if sometimes it came the hard way.

7 thoughts on “Real Talk: The Hustle and Grind”

  1. I think — no, I know — that trying to jump-start a career in a huge city premised on social and educational capital (cough, NY, London, etc) is very very very difficult. I had to do it at at the age of 30 when I came to NYC so I have a lot of empathy for this.

    We also live in an era of wage stagnation, precarious employment and insane housing costs so the race JUST to stay in place a la Alice in Wonderland is indeed exhausting.

    The “is it worth it?” question is one we have been posing more and more, paying $1700 month for health insurance and utterly horrified by the Presidency of Donald Trump. We are a lot older and TIRED! We could buy an entire house in Nova Scotia for $100,000…but are we rural people? NOPE. Therein lies the rub…

    So we’ll see what the next two years bring; many many predictions now of a recession in 2020 which is very sobering.

      1. From my wizened crone perspective, I’m coming to realize there are no permanent solutions to any problem. Seriously. We tolerate what we can, change what we can and, if the problem is truly agonizing, FLEE.

        I am feeling very very ambivalent about our home these days…it feels, in some ways, like in insoluble problem.

      2. I am pining for a LONG conversation on this topic in out next catch up. Christmas was a time for a lot of introspection for us on related points.

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