As I reluctantly open my eyes, I feel a shooting pain in my head that could only be caused by oversleeping and dehydration. My hand grudgingly grabs my phone and flashes the time 12:00 pm at me. After watching TikTok for an hour, I finally got the energy to get out of my crumb filled sheets. On my way to the bathroom I pass a mountain of unwashed clothes, 5 plus cups on my nightstand, and an overflowing trash can. Finally I look in the mirror to find that my face matches the disarray in my room. If you’re disgusted by now, I don’t blame you. Living in this squalor is not something I’m accustomed to, but unfortunately life has a habit of catching up to me. At the ripe age of 20 I have yet to figure out how to balance work life, school life, social life, and my life all at once. After a solid month, if I’m lucky, I find myself in this place of disorganization. Some may call it “mental health issues” or “poor time management”, but I prefer the term “rut”. Whatever you want to call it, I have to assume that many twenty somethings experience this. Don’t believe me? The good news is I asked some friends about how their ruts come about and how they get out of them. 

When I called up my friend Anna, she was actually eager to answer all of my drawn out personal questions. I think a little thing called Pinot Grigio had a lot to do with it, but nonetheless she gave me plenty of clear insight. We began with when these ruts seem to come about. For her, she said, she tends to start out strong at the beginning of each season. As the time passes, though, piece by piece things start to slip. By the time she’s three weeks into a season, her self care and cleanliness is out the window. Even when her room’s a wreck and she hasn’t taken any “me time” in too long, her work and school life never diminishes. A stranger or coworker would never know that she’s in a rut because she always upholds her responsibilities. Once she reaches the point of impropriety in her personal space, she quickly whips herself back into shape. To get out of her rut she starts with an extreme productivity day. These productivity days tend to consist of a deep apartment clean, an hour long shower, working out, and planning. When the day has come to an end she keeps up the productivity over time, but at a more manageable pace. Then after a few weeks, it diminishes again and the cycle continues. 

After I realized that Anna and I have very similar rut rituals, I thought getting a male perspective may show some more diversity on the topic. I call up my friend Denny with a peaking sense of curiosity. As we spoke about his habits and the evolution of his ruts, I had a realization. Denny tends to start preventative measures immediately when a rut begins instead of when the rut peaks. He explained how it typically comes about when he’s had a particularly busy week…whether that’s school, friends, travel, or hobbies. Rather than letting his hygiene and cleanliness go to shit, like me and Anna, he hyper fixates on these habits. This gives him a sense of control and makes him feel as though the rut isn’t actually happening. Discovering this made me wonder, what does he slack on if he approaches his ruts offensively. Denny goes straight to the source of what drained him in the first place… school and friends. In order to recharge his battery he distances himself from his friends and misses some classes. This only lasts for a few days to a week and then he’s completely back to normal. 

My friends helped me realize that there is a lot of shame attached to people’s rut rituals. Twenty somethings will do anything to hide this side of their life, whether that’s putting on a show at home or in public. Why do we feel ashamed that we can’t be 100% all the time? Why do we expect ourselves to handle everything flawlessly when we have so little experience? Who taught us to be ashamed of needing a break? Being twenty is exhausting, especially in the age of social media. I mean… you’re working your ass off in a total state of confusion whilst seeing other people’s “perfect lives” on social media. That’s a breeding ground for shame and comparison. If you take social media and sprinkle some capitalism in there, you’ll end up with an anxiety ridden young adult who feels like nothing they do is ever enough. I’m sure you’re wondering, what is the solution? Unfortunately since I’m not a licensed psychologist I can’t give you an official answer, but I believe the first step is removing the shame surrounding ruts. Getting into this place and effectively pulling yourself out of it shows strength, not weakness. It’s so much easier to rot in your bed for the rest of your life than it is to face the world each day. Remember you’re not alone in this, call your friends and ask.