I’ve been researching and writing a piece on “Hustle Culture” this week which has taken a lot more time than I’d anticipated.
As a consequence, I have got behind with my other work.
One evening, after we’ve cleared the dinner plates I say,
“I’ve got to finish an “Ask A Therapist” question that was due in at 7.”
As I disappear upstairs to get my laptop my son laughs and calls after me,
“I’m not. I’m just clearing the backlog.”
On Tuesday, my son was one of the first people in the UK to celebrate two consecutive lockdown birthdays. Last year was his 21st.
Trying to soothe the bitter disappointment of having to spend a second year running having a birthday dinner with his family I decided to make something special.
Trying to fit the planning, preparation, and cooking of a three-course meal, and a cake, around my work is a challenge.
The night before I am up until the small hours trying to perfect a cream cheese Oreo icing that I first made to ice the cake on his 18th which has become the stuff of folklore in our family. Needless to say I didn’t write the recipe down and have yet to repeat it.
By Tuesday afternoon when my son asks if I want to go for a walk with him, his girlfriend, and the dog all I can muster is a thin laugh.
“No thanks, I think I’d better stay here.”
“Is there anything I can do?” My wife asks.
“No, I don’t think so. I’ve just got to finish making the garlic bread and then I’m on track.”
“You’re making garlic bread as well?”
As usual, I’ve underestimated the time everything will take and overestimated the speed at which I can get through it.
My son isn’t impressed at having to share his birthday each year with an ersatz memorial service.
When we move into the street with our flames there’s nobody else there. Not a soul.
I leave my tea light in its little jar on the wall and we go back inside.
“I think maybe people find it easier to join in with public shows of solidarity and strength than they do with communal vulnerability.”
In the spring and summer last year there was no shortage of rainbows and “Thank You NHS” signs across social media, in house windows, and chalked onto pavements.
Hustle culture is about curating an image of yourself that you think will impress, or make you more lovable, and it comes from a fear that we may not be enough as we are.
What’s harder to acknowledge is fragility, vulnerability, and an acceptance that we all have our limits.