Issues

Millennial Burnout (Literally): From the Eyes of an Over-Hustled Millennial

I’m sure you’ve seen the articles.

“Millionaire to Millennials: Stop Buying Avocado Toast if You Want to Buy A Home”

“Millennials Aren’t Eating Cereal Because It’s Too Much Work”

“The Hot New Millennial Trend Is Hating Millennials”

“Millennials Want Money, But Not Hard Work”

Well, I beg to differ. I’ll buy my avocado toast and a house, too.

According to NPR, Millennials have accomplished a lot despite their lazy reputation. Millennials outnumber the Boomers (by eleven million people); Millennials are the most diverse generation in America; Millennials are waiting to find themselves before they get married.

I’m a pretty proud Millennial in general; I enjoy avocado toast and kale, I find fulfillment in an education I appreciate and career I love, I subscribe to the values of Minimalism, and I’m a big believer in the effectiveness of a well-placed meme. Despite all the good—even the clichés—that comes with being a Millennial, there are some downsides to being the most-hated generation of all time. I reached the hard, rock bottom of my 21-year millennial existence last week in the most ironic way possible. I’m not normally a fan of self-deprecating humor—a Millennial specialty—but this is too good not to share.

On March 27, after a long day of work, class, and more work, I decided to take a bath and read a book. It was bitterly cold outside all day: a nice, warm bath reading some Stephen King sounded absolutely amazing. However, I had a lot of homework to do and more projects for work piled on top; I wasn’t sure if I had thirty minutes to an hour extra to spend on myself (I find myself feeling this way almost every day, at least every weekday). After telling myself that I needed and deserved this, I got the bath ready.

I let the hot water run until the bath was full. I added some citrus essential oils, mainly because it felt like the thing to do—I wear it on my wrist all the time and it smells good, so why not? I pulled up my hair, turned on Mendelssohn, grabbed The Shining, and hopped in the tub—swearing that I’d stay submerged and relaxed for at least thirty minutes.

I made it about seven.

Midway through Danny’s exploration of the evil in room 217 (AKA an amazingly terrifying turning point), my knees began to tingle. It didn’t hurt, but I thought it was a little odd; I told myself it was only from being so cold throughout the day. But then my elbows began to burn. And then my back. And then my thighs. And then my feet. And then my stomach. And then my body burned. Burned like I was laying in gasoline and someone took a match to it. The acidity from the citrus essential oils and the scalding water combined to create a bathtub full of acid. Way to go, Claire.

I jumped up and turned on the cold water to stream through the shower head and started to drain the tub. I was sobbing—makeup running, sobbing—and moaning in pain, but also silently laughing at how ridiculous this situation was. I couldn’t stand under the water too long because it hurt, but I couldn’t stay away from the water too long because it would burn. I broke out in weird red spots and hives all over my body. I spun around in circles to ensure the icy water would hit every burning spot.

I couldn’t help but think: “This is what I get for trying to relax.”

And then—secondly, might I emphasize—I thought about taking myself to the hospital.

I decided it was time to call for help (my least favorite time ever) and called my boyfriend. He helped to relax me and told me to keep the burns under the cold water. After about twenty minutes crying hysterically in the shower, the burning eventually subsided to a light tingle that only mildly hurt to the touch. After what felt like hours, I got out of the shower, put clothes on, and started working on my annotated bibliography.

This very situation illustrates one of the many valid problemsnot pertaining to overconsumption of avocado toast—with this generation. The millennial generation is not lazy (even for cereal) and is, in fact, the generation that can’t turn away from work, that can’t say “No.”

Maybe it’s because we have constant access to whatever we want through everchanging technology. It’s hard not to reply to a work email at family dinner when your phone puts your coworker’s request right at your fingertips. It’s hard to ignore a friend’s Facetime while writing a paper because your phone is connected to your computer. You’ve heard it before (you stubborn millennial, you) but you know it’s the truth: ease of access to technology leads to toxic overstimulation.

Or maybe it’s because this generation has been conditioned to hustle; to work hard, to never stop, and to constantly be in the process of anticipating your next move. Seriously, go take a look around the women’s clothing or decor section of Target; between the “Hustle” graphic tees and the “Hustle” neon signs, ya girl is “Hustle”’d out.

What if I don’t want to hustle? What if I want to work hard for eight hours a day and then spend the rest of my waking hours with my family or friends? I’m all for self-motivation and working hard, but I think it’s necessary to understand that it’s necessary and okay to take a break. In fact, you could probably work harder and enjoy the process more if you stop to take a look around once in a while, like Ferris Bueller told us to back in 1986.

Or maybe it’s our environment. From economic to political to social issues, millennials often find themselves deeply invested and at the root of current issues. Millennials understand the responsibility and feel the pressure from previous generations to act on these issues, but—at the end of the day—feel they are too small (or are too busy hating other millennials, apparently) to make a difference. Or, millennials try to create change, but face backlash from superiors and authority for being too extreme.

Or maybe it’s a combination of these things. We obviously aren’t the first generation to complain about burnout or exhaustion; but, according to psychoanalyst Josh Cohen, we’re the first generation to experience mental and emotional stress that physically overwhelm our nervous system.

Or maybe it’s something else. Or maybe it’s a combination of other things.

All I can say is that this has been my millennial experience—and I share it because I know I’m not alone. These are some of my reasons for millennial burnout; a burnout that culminated in a nearly literal rising from the ashes.

This phoenix is rising, but she’s rising from a nap she took when she got home from class to eat cereal for dinner.

References:

Millennial Accomplishments: https://www.npr.org/2014/11/18/354196302/amid-the-stereotypes-some-facts-about-millennials

Anne Helen Petersen’s controversial essay about millennial burnout: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work

Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen on what causes burnout: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/millennial-burnout-real-it-touches-serious-nerve-critics-here-s-ncna974506

I am a sophomore Professional Writing major from St. Louis, Missouri. I attended Bishop DuBourg High School, and am involved in Campus Ministry, the Honors Program, and the Women's Basketball team here at Fontbonne University. I am a huge foodie and am helplessly addicted to coffee; you can probably find me in the corner of Starbucks reading a book.

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