If you had asked me what topic had the potential to end my writing career, I wouldn’t have put money on Australian Golf Courses. And yet, there I was, staring at a 400-word advertorial that seemed to refuse to sound like anything remotely entertaining and wondering what sort of money receptionists made these days.
To be fair, this piece was just one of a comically long list of jobs I’d said yes to because, you know, money is a good thing to have. Although there was something especially soul-crushing about trying to make golf courses sound thrilling. Revelling in self-pity, I messaged a friend, expressing my hate of writing. Knowing me well enough not to tolerate a second of it, they told me to quit whining and get it done. But I wasn’t exaggerating. At that moment, I really did hate writing. I hated it because, much like an unrequited high school crush, I loved it, and really just wanted it to love me back.
When you hit a wall, it’s natural to wonder whether the universe is trying to tell us something. To wonder if the forces beyond are keeping us away from the wrong path. Surely, if it’s right, if something is really your hustle, your calling, your forever thing, it should just… come together. Right? Shouldn’t the work be a never-ending string of feel-good successes requiring just enough effort to illicit an endearing glow? Instead of the sweat-soaked exhaustion which results from taking a battleaxe to the door of our destiny which seems to be locked.
It wasn’t always like this. There was that initial excitement; that bliss honeymoon period when the perks were novel and the quirks endearing. But, soon enough, it’s just you and the work; markedly less sparkly and alluring once you realize you’re in this for the long run.
I guess that’s the point about the hustle; it’s hard.
Pull up a dictionary and it elaborates; to pester, hound and harass. To hustle is to prod, nag, strong-arm and railroad and oh dear god they’ve got it spot on. You hustle the work and you hustle yourself; pushing persistently, fearless towards the next little barricade.
But we’re never really fearless and we’re never really unshakable. Not because we don’t improve, but because we do. We get better and the leaps get bigger; fearlessness and effortlessness was never the goal. Although our screens would disagree; social media highlights and Hollywood montages instead promising us it can be so easy if only we were better. It’s tempting to buy into the lies when we want to believe them so bad. When we’re desperate to toss aside our battleaxes and believe that if we look, work, live a certain way, those stubborn doors will open with ease.
Maybe they would. But maybe it’s just a distraction; an attempt to fix something that isn’t broken.
What if it’s meant to be hard? What if it’s meant to hurt? What if we’re meant to feel lonely sometimes, to get rejected, to tank the interview or miss out on the opportunity? Not because it’s a cruel world but because often, the good things in this life deserve a whole lot of hustle?
It’s easy to be brave hiding behind words, but this mindset isn’t instinctive yet. I still trip up over attempts that backfire and struggle against the conclusion that if it was right it shouldn’t be this hard. Relationships, friendships, careers and futures. I still battle against the Instagram people; broadcasting shiny plastic lives of perpetual yet spontaneous perfection, with the odd ‘authentic’ disclosure to keep things ‘real’. It should be effortless, they seem to say, it shouldn’t take this much work.
Maybe we all need a little more real in our lives. A little less social media and a little more socialising. A little less Netflix and a few more novels. A little less performance and a little more vulnerability.
A little less, ‘I’m great thanks’ and a little more “I’m struggling with this.” I think we’ll be surprised how many others are waiting for someone to give them permission to find the hustle hard too.