Over the past fortnight I found myself being pulled in several directions. The demands of being an editor at a fortnightly, along with being editor at a literary journal (The Aleph Review), while running two companies as my day jobs (Consilium Counselling Services and Small Talk IMC) began to overwhelm me. This, though, was just scratching the surface; multiple weddings, dance practices, birthdays, work receptions and book launches took up all the remaining time.
Looking around me, I began noticing this is the life of almost everyone I know. Therefore, choosing a topic for this issue wasnâ€™t hard. The recurring theme from the past fortnight lent itself easily to my pen and is something that has become all too common â€” everyone is just too darn busy!
People seem to constantly be on the go, trying to meet the demands of an unrealistically packed schedule: work, weddings, dance practices, more work, yoga classes, special gym courses, more social commitments and even more work. Trying to meet up with friends to simply â€œhang outâ€ without expectations has become a chore in itself and something to mark in the calendar three weeks in advance, but strictly between 7pm and 8pm because, you guessed it, thatâ€™s all that can be spared. And that too begrudgingly, as all of you will probably be checking your watches and stressing out about the long, seemingly never-ending to-do list. Why bother wasting time watching a movie together and sharing a human experience when you can simply watch Netflix, write a proposal and put on a soul-cleansing mask â€” all at the same time!
â€œNot surprisingly, our defining traits are a constant state of being broke and having to work multiple jobs, or at least thinking of them â€” a result of the global economy that the Baby Boomers have left us withâ€
The common denominator in all of this: millennials.
Millennial, a word thatâ€™s become almost ubiquitous, but also one that continues to gain negative connotation thanks to several social media posts and articles blaming us for ruining various industries from real estate to canned tuna. Allegedly, all millennials do is take â€œaesthetic AFâ€ pictures of avocado toast for Instagram and hence, will never be able to afford a house.
William Strauss and Neil Howe coined this term back in 19871 when referring to those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s â€” the Gen Y or those succeeding the Baby Boomers. Now, due to social media allowing space for interconnectivity and shared experiences, millennial is no longer relegated to simple demographic terminology, but can be denoted to represent an entire lifestyle. While the Boomers might have had the luxury of the â€œrich and famousâ€ lifestyle, us millennials are generally always â€œbooked and busyâ€ and quite proud of that. This has become so representative of the struggle of our generation that scores of articles have been published addressing the millennial fatigue, burnout and how, despite being constantly immersed in novel experiences, we are prone to loneliness and mental health issues.
The distinguishing factor of being a millennial, therefore, seems to be this constant urge to not have a single moment of actual freedom â€” even that Sunday evening self-care mask becomes a tool for social media content creation. Very rarely do we step out of our â€œwork modeâ€ to just be in the moment. This might be a direct consequence of growing up in an age so integrated with technology (I shudder to think what will happen to the generations below us), but is also something we actively pressure ourselves into doing. Work seems to define us. But why is that so?
In order to decipher the millennial code I turned to those around me. A quick Instagram â€œAsk Me Anythingâ€ directed towards the meanings of being a millennial and our work culture yielded several passionate responses and voice notes.
Not surprisingly, our defining traits are a constant state of being broke and having to work multiple jobs, or at least thinking of them â€” a result of the global economy that the Baby Boomers have left us with. With failing economic systems and widespread job insecurity, itâ€™s no wonder that we feel such financial uncertainty. As Qasim Ahsan, an academic, put it, â€œpunctuating breaks with the fear of fiscal insecurity.â€
Mahnoor Wali, co-founder and IMC consultant at Small Talk, seems to think the integration of technology is making everyone extremely accessible round-the-clock, in turn leading to a need to be available. Weâ€™re fed the narrative of working hard and being on the grind from our parents, however, weâ€™ve taken it to another level; the fact that we are accessible means we should be. Maryam Raja, stylist at Grazia Pakistan, believes itâ€™s also due to the amount of options we have. Comparing our generation to our parentsâ€™, she believes that being a millennial means going out into the world without a definite plan and set expectations.
Another interesting aspect of this was highlighted by Hiba Sheikh, co-founder of Consilium, that technological integration has led to work never stopping and by extension, work relationships having blurred boundaries. This is something I agree with; perhaps the reason why weâ€™re constantly talking about work and how busy we are, is because most of our digital interactions outside of work end up being with our colleagues â€” sharing relevant memes, following up on clients in WhatsApp groups or simply finding common ground to vent.
From what I gathered, the need to â€œlook busyâ€ is brought on by our lives being broadcasted for the world to see on social media. Sure, we might have the liberty to work from home or out of a cafe, be a digital nomad as it were, but at the end, work takes centre stage in our lives. Whatever time we have left, we give to errands and social commitments. We take a certain pride in being â€œbooked and busy,â€ or as my friendâ€™s mother jests, engaged in â€œback-to-backâ€ meetings. This high we get from a lengthy to-do list or having more work to do than the next person has serious negative mental health consequences that are only just being explored.
However, I did see a fascinating trend in all the responses I received to my Instagram story. Most Pakistanis were the ones highlighting the negative aspects of being stuck in the millennial generation; whether it was dismay at juggling ten different projects and multiple screens, hustling constantly or being perpetually broke. Contrastingly, my foreign friends were the ones extolling the benefits of being a millennial: freedom to choose what you want, working for what you believe in rather than being a cog in the machine, flexible working schedules and finding your own work ethic.
I believe what it boils down to is this: weâ€™re in the digital age and thereâ€™s no escaping it; thereâ€™s no such thing as work-life balance anymore because work is life and vice versa. However, the advantage we have is that our generation is gravitating increasingly towards a lifestyle of fulfilment and inner satisfaction, despite financial uncertainty. We need to focus on these aspects of our millennial work culture and avoid the strains of projecting a perfectly well-adjusted life where all deadlines are met. That pressure has coined its own term, the millennial burnout; we must remember that our need for excelling at our passion projects and putting them up on Instagram should not outweigh our very human need of relaxing and finding joy in real human experiences.
1- Horovitz, Bruce (4 May 2012).Â â€œAfter Gen X, Millennials, what should next generation be?â€.Â USA Today. Retrieved 22 April 2019