Millennials, contrary to their reputation of being lazy, have become the Burnout Generation

LOUISE O'NEILL: Millennials, contrary to their reputation of being lazy, have become the Burnout Generation

Since I have started writing full time, I have not been very good at taking holidays.

In the beginning, I worked non-stop because I had decided to take a year out to finish the novel and there was a sense of urgency to the work, an understanding that I might not get this chance again.

After I was published, I felt as if I couldn’t turn down any opportunities that came my way for fear I wouldn’t be asked again.

No matter how busy or overwhelmed I was, I would say yes, yes, yes to all the requests flooding my inbox.

Millennials, contrary to their reputation of being lazy and entitled, have become the Burnout Generation because there is no clear demarcation between our professional and our private lives, we are always ‘on’, always connected, answering work emails as soon as we wake up in the morning or at midnight, using our social media to promote our ‘brand’.

There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as office hours anymore, we are expected to be contactable at all times.

This is even more true if you’re a freelancer, in my experience, and after a while, I found myself experiencing intense guilt if I took time off.

I think I was trying to prove that what I do is a ‘real job’; just because I love writing doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work hard.

If I’m being truthful, I began to see that as part of my identity — I had a good work ethic, and that somehow made me a good person. I prided myself on being reliable, responsible.

I never missed a deadline, I never asked for an extension.

I have been writing for this paper since February 2016 and I’ve never even taken a week off my column.

However, in my personal life, I have been a little less dependable.

I have cancelled dinner dates due to work commitments; I missed a friend’s wedding because a deadline was looming. I have expected my friends and family to just be there, waiting patiently for my return.

It hardly seems fair, does it?

My uncle lives in Thailand with his partner, and when he was leaving Ireland after my grandmother’s funeral, he said to us all — “come visit me, please?”

My mother said yes, of course she would, and then she looked at me. Would you go with me? she asked.

The familiar sense of panic began to arise, I would be too busy, editing my new book, my schedule would be horrendous at that stage, where would I find the time to take two weeks off?

Suddenly, I thought of my grandmother, and all the times I didn’t make it to afternoon tea or a Sunday lunch because I had to ‘finish up some work’, all the conversations we could have had but did not because I was ensconced in my writing room, determined to be the Teacher’s Pet for colleagues who didn’t care nearly as much as I did if I made said deadline.

In that moment, I made my mind up. “Okay,” I told my mother. “Let’s do this.”

Flights were booked and suddenly, we were boarding a flight to Bangkok. I deleted the email app from my phone, determined I would completely switch off.

(I re-installed it a day later but surely I deserve brownie points for trying?!)

I had no expectations of Thailand; I was happy enough to go along with whatever my uncle had planned, I told him when he picked us up at Hua Hin station.

He showed us his beautiful house, the pool he tended to each day, the rabbit they had adopted as a pet. His lush plants, lining the perimeter of the propery.

Granny would have liked that, I thought, proud that he had inherited her green fingers.

Inside, there were photos of her everywhere, the article I wrote for this paper about her death framed and hung on the wall. I cried when I saw that, my mother rubbing my arm as if to say — I know. It’s okay.

We hired a car (“Do you know Thailand has the second highest death rate on the roads in the world?” my uncle pipes up cheerily as I attempt to switch lanes at rush hour), we visited an elephant reserve and a vineyard, we ate in the night market.

I read and I swam in the pool and I somehow managed to get a mild sunburn on an overcast day, wearing factor 50 and a caftan, and sitting under an umbrella. I am a medical marvel and scientists should study me.

My uncle’s partner brought us to the food market and she taught us how to cook Tom Yum and Pad Thai. I became inexplicably addicted to the Thai version of the X Factor. I did what you’re supposed to do on holidays, I guess.

I relaxed.

When it was time to go home, we gathered in the airport, hugs exchanged, promises to return given.

My uncle left and my mother teared up, something she rarely does. She looked at me, her chin quivering a little, and I knew she was thinking of the last time she said goodbye to a member of her family.

“It’s okay,” I told her. “We’ll be back.”

LOUISE SAYS

READ: Correspondences : An Anthology to Call for an End to Direct Provision.

This anthology gathers writing, visual art, and photography created by those in direct provision.

It is an eclectic and often electrifying collection, serving both as a damning indictment of direction provision and as a powerful piece of art in its own right.

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The second season of this original series just came to Netflix and I urge you not to sleep on it.

Set in an exclusive school in Spain, Elite follows the lives of rich, incredibly attractive students as they behave very, very badly.

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