The last ten months have been an incredible gift. The Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to slow down, think deeply and surround myself with people and opportunities that I would otherwise not have. Almost at the midway point, here are some insights I want to share about what I’ve gained so far.
The first insight I’ll share is that I thought I had failed miserably in self-care, but I hadn’t. I’ll do my best to explain.
As I started my Fellowship journey I worried about burn-out and sustainability, so I talked to people to try and learn about what others are doing or have done for self-care. To be honest, I’ve never really understood self-care. Perhaps it’s because I was raised in a culture that is way too collective. So, growing up my needs always came after meeting family and extended family needs where my evenings and weekends were designated for providing support to others rather than exploring for my own interests. Whatever the case may be, after talking to others to find out what I might do for self-care, I felt like it became more burdensome than I had anticipated. Even with much advice, it felt heavy and I could sense my own resistance to it.
I tried several things – that’s the privilege of being a Fellow; you can try a few things. After a number of attempts I determined that it just wasn’t working for me. I sat with myself and realized that for me self-care had always been about community care, and that was completely okay.
What is community care you might ask?
I started to recognize how in my social justice movement journey I had always felt cared for when I was in the company of others who knew that we all were fighting for a world we believed in, and in our fighting together we were also really fighting for ourselves. In that since the social justice movement spaces I’ve helped build have always allowed me to use my privileges, experiences, skills and social capital to benefit me and others. It was those community spaces that created belonging and support that let me know I was cared for. The burden and responsibility of “care” is shared.
I think those who’ve been part of social justice movements innately understand this, because of how we build together with others, how we show up to stand together, and how we commit to acts of doing together over decades and even life times. I started out feeling like I might be burning out, but I’m realizing now that community care must be part of my self-care.
The other insight I’ll share is not fully formed. However, I’ll pen it down so that if you read my log and are interested, you can share your thoughts with me so I can continue to expand my thinking and learning. This insight is that elders are invaluable and building movements that are multigenerational is critical if we want transformative change centered on BIPOC communities.
What’s emerging from my interviews with elders is a common story of BIPOC leaders who leave community only to return “home” to un-learn and re-learn from elders. Not only do BIPOC leaders go into a world where they are often erased, but they come home and have to repair themselves before they can take up leadership. The layering of oppression is so systemic and perpetual, it’s often not even name in the stories that are shared with me. As I listen to each story, it feels like I’ve stepped into a spider’s web, and I’m completely taken in and have to break from it to see any patterns. It’s no wonder disrupting is way easier than rebuilding.
I was following this and other themes as I began planning the second half of my self-designed Fellowship. I had booked a trip to San Francisco in June to continue interviews, and began preparing for three months of travel to New Zealand, Norway, Japan etc. Well, scratch that plan! COVID-19 has dramatically changed everyone’s world, and I’m now making adjustments to the rest of my Fellowship. I still plan to take time off but my live-in experiences will have to shift to meet the moment.