Gandhi nearly died of starvation on multiple occasions to stand against injustice. Cesar Chavez urged his followers to sacrifice anything and everything to support farmers’ unions. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lost his freedom, and later his life, to bring widespread awareness to the oppression of people of color. And, of course, the Beastie Boys said we can’t sleep until Brooklyn.Without disrespecting or belittling the contributions of these great leaders, and the super obnoxious Brooklyn bound musicians, I am offering another side of social justice. It’s not as glamorous, it doesn’t win Nobel Peace Prizes, and it doesn’t make for an epic biographical flick. It’s self-care, and it’s something we need to start taking more seriously. I’m not just speaking to social/political activists, either. This is to anyone with passion — academics, musicians, artists, jump rope enthusiasts — you need to take care of yourself. I do value the concept of sacrifice. I understand that creating great things requires time, effort, and energy. But if you run out of those three resources, you will have nothing left to give. Burnout is real, and it’s the shittiest feeling. Last semester, I was part of an initiative through the Queer Straight Alliance to create a gender-inclusive living community in campus residence life. After countless hours spent drafting and forwarding emails, proofreading proposals, attending meetings, and attempting to navigate the maze that is higher education, we got tired. Exhausted, actually. I distinctly remember a meeting where some of us just cried, feeling dejected and overwhelmed. Finals week was quickly approaching, my senior capstone paper was due in just a few days, and I had a serious case of homesickness. When we were asked to meet with Residence Life during Final’s Week, we declined. For the first time, we chose our mental health over our passion. I still struggle with that decision. There have been moments when I see result of our work and wonder if it would have been more potent had we gone to that meeting. I look back and think, “I could have sacrificed one more night of sleep if it meant my community could feel safer.” But then, I’m hit with reality.
You’re only valuable to this world if you value yourself enough to stay stable.
I was moments away from a mental breakdown, barely holding onto whatever thread of self-confidence I had left. I wasn’t showering nearly enough; I hadn’t done laundry in over a month; and, quite frankly, I didn’t think I could make it through my second-to-last semester. As much I am fired up about the issues I fight for, I can’t keep fighting if I can’t even get out of bed. I share this because I see burnout all around me at EC. So many students are collecting involvements, some for the sake of passion and others for resume boosters or more graduation cords. We are buzzing from class to meeting to part time jobs, shoveling food in our mouths as we shuffle through the snow. It’s admirable, the work you put into what you love and value, the passion you pour out. But you’re only as good as your self-care. You’re only valuable to this world if you value yourself enough to stay stable. So, I challenge you to take a step back. Hop in the shower. Buy an adult coloring book. Bask in the glory that is skipping your 8AM. Trust me, your passion will still be needed tomorrow, and your professor will probably post the PowerPoint online anyways.