I don’t have many tips for self-care that are beyond what you probably already know. But we are living in chaotic times, and what I have to say is this. To take care of others IS to take care of yourself. Other people make yourself better. Think about it. We only appreciate summer because we understand what it means to survive harsh winters. We only appreciate green grass and abundant leaves on trees and blue skies because we know what it’s like for our world to be colorless. We only appreciate money because we understand what it’s like when we have none. We appreciate our privileges because we understand what it’s like to not have them.
If I want to take care of myself and embrace my privilege, the only way to do that is to use it for advocacy for those who do not have it. Everything I am, I am because of surrounding myself with people who are different than me. My creativity, music, ambition, intellect, curiosity, and even my individualism, all come from growing and learning from those whom I share differences with. I grew up playing make-believe with my cousins and I always pretended to be white. My dolls were white and the ones that weren’t I would just pretend they were in my head. I read stories about little white girls and white families. I played with my white friends. And I say this not to bash white people. I love white people. In fact I am in love with a white male. But it wasn’t until I started learning about very different realities faced in this world that I became the person that I wanted to be. A person I was proud of. It was senior year of high school when I learned about feminism and that was really the moment that sparked my liberal, compassionate, dedication to social change. That was the moment I began to ask questions about the world. I learned about FGM and violence against women and body image and the wage gap all around the globe and I understood that there is so much more outside of my bubble I happily lived in with all my white friends. From there I went to college and Mike Brown was killed and Trayvon Martin and Freddie Grey and Philando Castille and so many more. Before that I had never paid attention to issues facing the black community because truthfully, I had never really known or understood my blackness. In my head, I probably had the same stereotypes about black people as white people did. But when I heard everyone talk about Mike Brown, I had this gut feeling. This is my issue too. I attended a protest at my school where we all gathered on College Green to listen to find out if Mike Brown’s killer would be convicted. He wasn’t. We marched to the student center and formed a large circle and everyone cried, screamed, held hands, and shared their feelings about police brutality and from there, even executed a plan of action. It was that moment, I knew I was black. I attended Black Student Union Meetings and Feminist Equality Movement meetings. I was learning and growing and becoming an activist. I took classes and read books about different cultures, race, politics, and different realities going on the world. I attended every KeyNote Speaker who came to our school and went to events hosted by International Student Union, and even sought out to get my Global Leadership Certificate. I educated myself on the criminal justice system, on Islam, on police brutality, immigration, etc. I knew I was a minority. These issues were my issues.
And oh boy am I still learning. I still have more questions than answers and I may not be a perfect activist, but one thing I know for sure is that I am a better person because of the differences in this world. I am caring. I am passionate. And I have a fiery desire to provoke change. So what does this have to do with self-care?
Like I said, I am a minority but I have privilege. I can navigate an airport. I can hold hands with the person I love. I can pay my phone bill every month. I can write about whatever I please. I can speak my native language and be understood. I can vote. I can drive. I can go to college. I can contact my family members. I can freely declare when I’m disappointed in my government. But others cannot do that. And knowing that is enough to make you scream, keep you up at night, punch pillows, get into arguments, blame others and even become angry at yourself for thinking maybe you contributed to the problem.. that maybe you didn’t do enough.
The only way to take care of yourself in the age of Trump is to take care of others first. Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t get “used to it.” Embrace your anger. Speak up. Donate whatever you have to every organization you can. Sign every petition. Leave voicemails to your officials. Be nice to other people. Ask them questions. Talk to them. Buy them coffee. Read books and articles. Join organizations. Share your own experiences. Then and only then should you relax. Sip your tea. Take your nap. Go on your run. Finish your workout. Meditate. Do yoga. Shut off social media. But do it knowing you did something for others first. Relax knowing you’ve earned the right to relax. And then.. get right back to work.
I say not to get too comfortable because during RA training we did an exercise in which we all stood in a line and had to take steps forward or back depending on what privileges you have and lack. Where you stand at the end is supposed to reveal the differences everyone goes through. After that exercise, we were asked if the activity would have been better with our eyes closed. A few white males said yes and I immediately without hesitation said no. I said no because it’s too easy. It doesn’t spark conversation. It doesn’t make you grow or challenge your character. It’s easy to not acknowledge one another’s differences and struggle if we keep our eyes closed which is what many unfortunately do in life. It’s important we see who is stepping forward and back and for what reason. It’s important minorities see white men take steps back just as much as it’s important for white people to see minorities take steps back. We cannot allow ourselves to be ignorant and blind and to take the easy way out by simply preventing ourselves from learning the truth in the first place. If we always take the easy way, we will not grow. It defeats the purpose.
Self-care is important. But do not confuse self-care with laziness. Not paying attention to the problems in the world does more bad than good. Care for others and you will thank yourself for it. Your heart is not a pie chart. If you love designate some love to everyone else, there is still 100% space left for you to love yourself.