“30 hours of working and still going strooong,” 24-year-old copywriter Mita Diran tweeted from Indonesia on December 14. Only she wasn’t. A few hours later she collapsed in a coma and died the following day, a victim of exhaustion, overwork, and an energy drink called Krating Daeng, also known as “Thai Red Bull.”
Sadly, young people dying of overwork is not unheard-of in some parts of Asia, but this particular death quickly went viral. Partly it was because she worked for the American ad agency Young & Rubicam. Mostly it was that tweet, one of a series in which she recounted her ridiculously work-laden life. In one tweet earlier that year she contemplated moving her bed to the office. In another she was delighted to arrive home before midnight.
Reading about her felt like a wake-up call. In addition to being a full-time freelance writer and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, I’ve completed and am now selling a memoir, and I curate a popular reading series here in Woodstock, New York. Add many weeks of travel over the past few months and the pressures of Christmas shopping and family visits and somewhere along the way I had tipped over the edge. I was constantly at my desk, or else rushing, late for an appointment. I was nearly always short of sleep. [read]