The Everyday Grind: Hustle Culture at Poly

Opinion piece by Emma Spring ’22, Editor-in-Chief of The Polygon

Emma Spring
Emma Spring ’22

Walking around the grounds of Poly Prep, you will find beautiful paintings, elegantly handcrafted essays, athletes sprinting to score a touchdown, and a plethora of elite college flags posted outside the deans’ offices. As its name implies, Poly Prep prepares students to get into college and secure a future profession. Disguised by Poly’s gleaming tower, symbolic of centuries of student success, however, is a student body infected with the bug known as “hustle culture,” and it’s only getting worse.

Each minute the arrow ticks around the clock lodged high in that tower is another minute students like myself must exert maximum commitment to mind, body, and character—to be agents of positive change in the world. Changing the world is an honorable feat, but people don’t just magically revolutionize society by working hard. Schools offer lit paths, but students today need the unrestricted freedom to slow down and choose their own direction. If we idealize the constant hustle, we might not notice the large gaping hole in the ground, falling and stopping all together.

Hard work is admirable. It’s often that those who put in the time, the effort, and the focus will reap the benefits. Those who take more advanced classes, play more sports, and are constantly doing something are praised most often. This is the habit of students today: hustle in school, hustle on the field, and never stop moving.

I, for one, certainly fall victim to work’s addictive grip. I have a sticker on my computer that says, “DO MORE.” One might say I am a “workaholic.” My pedal is never off the metal. Even during my moments I’m supposed to be relaxing, I have a World War II documentary playing at 3x speed. I do, surprisingly, somehow manage to get eight hours of sleep every night, a feat I know many of my peers are unable to sustain.

Along with addiction to work, students (some as young as 13) fuel up on caffeine, bringing venti-size cups of cold brew to school each morning. Poly students abuse the rush of energy, forcing their bodies to stay awake into the wee hours, forcing productivity upon themselves. Resting is a waste of time. Resting is for the weak. Anything less than grinding seven days a week, 24 hours a day, is a failure.

Media doesn’t help either. As if managing our own workloads wasn’t enough, we are encouraged to admire the hustle-based routines influencers share on social media. Thirty-second content teaches us that we are cutting an avocado all wrong, washing our hair all wrong, walking, talking, breathing incorrectly. Society constantly tells us we’re too slow.

After college, lost in a world that doesn’t revolve around the next assignment, it might seem that we students actually lack the Poly values of mind, body, and character.

Landing at an elite college is the final destination for us high schoolers. Many think, “I just have to get into college and it will all be better.” But what happens next? What happens when we achieve the goal we’ve sought after for the past 17 years? After college, lost in a world that doesn’t revolve around the next assignment, it might seem that we students actually lack the Poly values of mind, body, and character. It might seem that the only true value a Poly student has firmly constructed is being the best student one can be.

I’m the last person to ever say, “Screw it, I’m not going to college.” I’m far too conditioned to give it all up now. Plus, I have been lucky enough to discover other passions that motivate me toward my future path of life. Nonetheless, this culture is real and, for the most part, can’t be eliminated. It’s the nature of a competitive school like Poly Prep. As much as I would love to wave a magical wand and offer a definitive solution, I really don’t know what’s best, and neither does Poly. While the Wellness Day this past month seemed like an effective step, those who likely needed it most were at home with their heads stuck in a textbook. Over the past couple of years, midterms and finals have been virtually absent, but they’re back this year. While “college has midterms,” many might say as an excuse, working toward success on one grade will never bring complete fulfillment. That’s not Poly’s fault per se, but it’s a looming factor, nonetheless.

I’m writing this now, so students, like me, realize how dangerously entrenched we are. It’s only a matter of time before your stamina gives in and you run out of steam. There’s no schoolwide solution. Instead, I offer a student-specific self-examination, myself included. Every student should contemplate what brings them true joy. Every student should smile and get some rest. What are you really working toward? If you weren’t working as hard as you do now, what would you be doing?

There is no picture perfect life. Values are different for every person on this earth. Of course, being a good person is one, but beating ourselves up for not being “good enough” is counterproductive. We are being sucked dry of life’s energy, and for the sake of future generations of students, it should not be glamorized.

Note: This article was originally published in the Polygon’s November 2021 issue.