A few days ago, while scrolling through Twitter, at an ungodly hour like the addict I am, I came across a thread of an American woman, let’s call her Mandy, detailing her downward mental spiral and eventual resignation from her job. As I read through the thread, I was overcome by an odd sensation. Mandy recounted months of operating on autopilot, just going through the motions at work. Long hours, short breaks and a constant migraine. Never feeling truly at peace or relaxed, even after coming home after work. A tiredness that seemed to be bone deep, even when she managed over eight hours of sleep. Stuck in a loop with no end in sight… the more I read the stronger this sensation became. I was uneasy. It took me a while to understand why, her words were familiar, like she stole it straight from my Twitter drafts.
This woman who I’ve never met, and have very little in common with, is putting my private thoughts on the internet. She further goes on to state that after being unable to improve her mental state, she eventually left her job. She had neither a large emergency fund nor another job lined up. Her intention was a few months of genuine rest, and then start job hunting. When she tweeted the thread it had been close to a year since she resigned, and she stated that she has not returned to work full time and is the happiest she has ever been. What does it say about society if living with no solid source of income is more favourable than full-time employment? Mandy’s tweet gathered a lot of traction, and many people shared their own resignation stories.
Perhaps it’s this sense of community we have cultivated that makes the idea of leaving your job less daunting than before. Social media became the medium for the generation of high functioning anxious people and existential dread-ists to express feelings that the generations of our parents and grandparents would scoff at - they’re a generation birthed in conflict, wars of race, gender and country, while raising families and working. Compared to that we have it easy right? I remember once trying to explain my apparent disinterest in striving for higher education at the time to my mother. Explaining the anxiety and uncertainty I felt in my life, and how it crippled me sometimes. I was met with a typical Saint Lucian parent's response, “You not even young yet you talking like that. You too young to have stress so.”. She ten went on to ramble about young people becoming increasingly lazy and “soft”. It was a stark reminder about the disconnect between our generations. In my grandmother’s generation most people started work around the age of 15, still children, and then worked until they physically couldn’t or started a family. They in turn raised their kids to work. The job didn’t necessarily matter: doctors and lawyers were preferred of course but at the end of the day any honest work would do. You must not be a burden to your parents, you must earn to contribute to the household, it is your duty. It’s what adults do: they work, so you must work too.
We were raised in a similar manner, the difference is that our generation has become more cognisant of the importance of mental/emotional wellness and rest. We are slowly undoing this generational curse that ties our worth to constant productivity. We are shedding the shame of needing to slow down or stop, to get things right within ourselves first and foremost and everything else after. I think this reclamation of our autonomy is alien to our ancestors and I think it intimidates them because they do not understand.
The Covid-19 pandemic added more fuel to the fire by further highlighting negligence and unfair working conditions. It was the final push many people needed to leave that job and slow down, an unexpected silver lining. We are the generation working hard to relax, reclaiming our time, working smarter not harder. We are the generation that want to retire in our 30’s or 40’s and enjoy our money. Most importantly we are the generation that puts self before any job. We are aware that we deserve to be respected and compensated properly for our time and skills and we will not be settling for less again. And if we leave nothing else in this world, we want to leave this message for those to come. Work is good, money is nice, but people are invaluable.
Written by Doniyel Polius