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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: COVID-19 has changed "grind culture"


The days of hitting the pavement with bronchitis and a 102-degree fever seem to be behind us. 

There was a day not too long ago when we would look at a fellow classmate with a box of tissues and cough syrup on their desk and we would think "respect." Now, if anyone were to even think about going to class with so much as a cough, they better be prepared to get stares of disapproval from a lecture hall full of students. 

Our post-COVID-19 era has developed a societal standard that contradicts what the past 40 to 50 years have prioritized: incessant perseverance. While this turn of events has emphasized wellness and self-care, it is possible our generation has consequently started to lose its edge. 

The wellness wave that has swarmed our post-pandemic society has been a long time coming. Before COVID-19, competitive natures were encouraged and were exponentially more competitive year by year. This was causing our generation to produce sleepless zombies that operated as machines. Downtime and self-care were viewed as indulgences rather than necessities. 

Basically, if you weren't pounding a whopping 800mg of caffeine per day, you were lazy. There was always someone that was working harder, sleeping less and ultimately on a steeper path to success than you. Therefore, to stay home because you were feeling under the weather was almost shameful. To waste several hours, even days of precious time to take care of something that could be left up to the hands of modern medicine was an absurd idea. 

The cream of the crop would never let a little cold stop their life. 

Obviously, this was not a sustainable way of life. And don't even get me started on the poor quality of life as a result of this cultural phenomenon. However, our post-COVID-19 era has seemed to set our priorities straight with its newfound sensitivity to wellness. 

But we overcorrected. 

Yes, the recent attention to one's mental and physical well-being has been a significant and even life-altering movement. But it has gotten to the point where being under the weather is almost socially unacceptable. 

If you don't believe me, let out a cough — or better yet, a sneeze — the next time you are in a public space and see how many heads turn. Our society has started rewarding those that stop their lives because of the most minor and normal sicknesses. 

I'm not at all saying we had it right before. Feeling the pressure to keep up with the grind while ill should not be a concern and I'm glad our post-COVID-19 society has revoked this conception. However, coughs, sniffles and colds are all normal, everyday occurrences and should not be grouped in as a reason to put a halt on one's life. 

There is a happy medium between pushing yourself past your breaking point and lacking perseverance. It's a concept our society has settled on with very extremist opinions. 

My fear is that we will start to lose sight of perseverance. Going when the going gets tough and not calling it quits because society says, "That's okay, we can do that now." There will be times to stop, but there will also be times to persevere and press on. This societal issue is imperative to our quality of life, and it's something we need to start talking about.


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