The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Tristen Lee, The Independent
I don’t remember the last time I truly relaxed. I don’t think I even know how to.
Every time I try to sit stationary for any length of time, I think about what I need to do next; I obsessively rework my to-do-list for the week, cramming articles, book plots and business plans into every spare minute around the PR job I throw my absolute heart and soul into.
There’s no flexibility in my life plans, because the thought of resorting to some kind of plan B scares the absolute s*** out of me. It means acknowledging that I might fail.
I am so obsessed with reaching some notable level of success and hitting my financial targets, that I’ve forgotten how to actually enjoy life. I don’t remember the last time I slept through the night without checking my emails at 3AM; I haven’t had a holiday in over three years and it’s probably been a similar length of time since I had a day of doing absolutely nothing without that niggling sense of urgency.
Millennials have a bad rep; we’re lazy, self-obsessed and we’ve basically ruined everything for everyone – including the housing market – with only 16 per cent of London-based millennials, for example, currently on the property ladder.
Though it’s not for want of paying nearly a third of our annual income on rent, we simply can’t get that initial leg up. Unfortunately, unless we’re in a position to be gifted a deposit by a well-off family member (or a sugar daddy – no judgement here), most of us could never afford bricks and mortar of our own.
Even with an annual income of £70,000, which would put us in the top 2 per cent of earners in the UK, we would only be granted a mortgage of £280,000. In a big city, particularly one as costly as London – where we would need to work to earn this kind of money – most millennials would struggle to even buy a bedsit in zone 5.
So, we have two choices: we either continue working ourselves to death, chasing promotion after promotion in the hope that one day we can afford a place of our own (because society says that’s the end goal) or, we forget about that entirely and strive to do something that matters with our careers; something that actually makes a difference.
When we suddenly hit 30, the official age of “adulting”, the need to prove ourselves grows. We develop career anxiety and metaphorically catapult ourselves down the path to burnout, fending it off for as long as we can with skinny iced lattes and protein balls that taste like soap – until even menial, low-reward tasks like going to the bank or returning clothes start to feel impossible.
In the UK, 74 per cent of us are so stressed we’re unable to cope and 96 per cent of millennials say they have reached “burnout” at work – a state of chronic stress that results in physical and emotional exhaustion.
Despite plenty of organisations supposedly championing “work-life balance” and supporting the mental health of employees – for many of us – that’s not a reality.
I’ve worked in several companies where I’ve had to work 14-hour days, plus weekends, just to get a rein on my crippling workload. Instead of directors assisting struggling employees, hiring much-needed additional resources or increasing salaries so staff can cope with the ever-increasing costs of living, in my experience, many would rather introduce office yoga classes that nobody has time to go to.
For many of us, the line between work and life is non-existent. We’re living in the age of constantly being “online” and as a result, we’re expected to be available 24/7 and able to respond to anything and everything in an instant – whether that’s via email, text, WhatsApp, Slack or phone call – even while on holiday.
Unfortunately, the price we pay for careening into the career-sphere, is our lack of social life. I’ve been so mentally and physically exhausted that I’ve frequently ended up too sick or tired to follow through with plans made with family or friends – leaving me wracked with guilt at my inability to juggle my commitments.
I think as a single woman who hasn’t settled down yet and is often questioned about it, I feel the need to have something to show for it; I feel I have something to prove – but to who?
Are we actually a generation of burned-out, time-poor, cash-poor, anxious, restless, sexless, quasi-alcoholic workaholics with no concept of R&R? And if so, how do we fix it?
I fear the millennial generation is currently aboard one of those rickety spinning fairground rides secured only by a flimsy chain, and if we’re not careful, the wheels are going to fly spectacularly off in a massive plume of cherry-flavoured smoke, emblazoned with the words “it is what it is”.
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