I’m a typical twentysomething stuck in a dead-end job, but dreaming of something more for myself. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know that I want more. I want to achieve something. I want to make a difference. I know that once I pick a direction, I will work hard and propel myself forward. Long hours, all nighters, whatever! I’ll do it, because you’d do anything for your dream job, right?
Moritz Erhardt was like that too. I’ll give you the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version of everything the news has reported thus far.
TL;DR: Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year old intern at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch died last week, after pulling 3 all-nighters in a row, and 8 in the last two weeks. They found him dead in his shower in London. He had grueling work hours and was under pressure to succeed.
This hits close to home. I didn’t know Moritz and I don’t know anyone who died from exhaustion–although there is some speculation that Moritz had a medical condition (like epilepsy) and/or was getting some help from methamphetamine to trudge through those long hours.
This hits close to home because I see myself in Moritz. I’m only a few years older than him, but that was me. That still is me, sometimes. I remember pulling all nighters in college, sometimes two in a row, just to finish a project or study for an exam. Like Moritz, I was under a lot of pressure to succeed, and I was incredibly competitive and overachieving.
My wake up call was when I ended up in the hospital. I worked myself to exhaustion and dehydration. I went to the hospital in the bad part of town (intake is faster). They told me that I was exhausted–unsurprising, since I was running on little to no sleep. They told me to drink water or even Gatorade to replenish my electrolytes and help my dehydration. I couldn’t drink anything without gagging. I was throwing up all day. At some point, my stomach was so empty that I was throwing up nothing–that’s right, I was throwing up air. I couldn’t sleep because I kept getting up to throw up.
They hooked me up to an IV and fed water into my veins. It’s absolutely sick that I loved it. It felt so nice. I felt somewhat refreshed. It didn’t occur to me, in that moment, how fucked up the situation was–I had worked my way into a hospital bed.
When I told my professor about the hospital incident, she told me that nothing can make up for the health I’ve lost.
I pulled a handful of all-nighters the following year in moderation. Since graduating, I haven’t pulled a single all-nighter and I intend to keep it that way.
My heart goes out to Moritz’s family and friends during this difficult time. I hope his death wasn’t for nothing–that his death will spark public outrage, and labour conditions for our interns–and other professionals like lawyers, doctors, and bankers–will be improved. We shouldn’t reward 100-hour workweeks. And we shouldn’t punish those for working normal hours. At the end of the day, it’s just not worth it.
As for all of you Moritz’s out there, take it easy. Your health is the most valuable thing you have. Don’t fall into the trap, set some boundaries for yourself, and know when to call it quits.