A funny thing happened recently in my life. I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon doing exactly what I wanted to do and I chose to do just that. I got home from work early and it was a beautiful, warm day. My plan was to go for a jog and do some work around the house. But as I got out of my car, I thought ‘What do I want to do right now?’ And I realized I wanted to sit outside, sip lemonade and stare at the beautiful, bright blue sky above me. I decided that doing just that was in my best interest. I live in the northeast of the US and when we get nice weather, we should (if we can) take advantage of it. So, screw the things we should do and just do the things we want to do. I knew going for a run is what I was “supposed” to do and that exercise is good for my health. But you know what else is good for my health? Taking a moment to myself and doing what I want to do, not what I should do.
And I think that’s something we all can and should do sometimes, as long as we’re not hurting ourselves or others – of course a choice that involves harm to oneself or others isn’t really self-care. Self-care is wonderful and essential. It is crucial for a physically and emotionally healthy life. It’s also giving a big, ol’ middle finger to the powers that be. Aka, the people in charge, who
tell us demand that we work harder, faster and lose our humanity. The ones who exploit us and who knowingly take most advantage of those who are most at a disadvantage. Look it’s hard for any of us to find time to do things we like or to take a stand against current societal demands and norms about work and productivity. And for people who face systematic oppression, it is even harder. For people who endure multiple forms of institutional oppression, there are days when it may be impossible to take care of yourself. Because unfortunately, the more oppression people face, the more control is exerted over their time, bodies and lives. And yet, I find that most of us can still find some time, some small chunk of the day that we can claim as our own. And when we find this time, I recommend seriously considering the option to make a choice to not do the things society tells us to do and not what is expected of or forced on us. Instead, we can take this time to focus on ourselves and not lose this focus until we’ve learned how we are in that moment and what we truly want and need.
I’ve been lucky (and privileged) to have had this opportunity a lot recently. I changed jobs recently and now I work closer to home. It was a tough choice for many reasons but in the end, it had to be done. I took a pay cut and that kinda sucked. It sucked on a personal and also a societal level. Personally, I miss having the extra income. But also society tells me I’m worth more and more successful when I make more money. To which, ultimately, I said “F you, no.” My time and health are worth so much more than a higher income. And it should be noted, this is a personal decision and as someone in the social work field, I don’t want to flippantly suggest money is never important because, like it or not, in our society, it is important. In addition, I’ve really only ever been middle class so I don’t want to dismiss the harsh reality of poverty that consumes the lives of so many Americans. It’s one thing to take a pay cut and still be comfortable but of course, money is also something we need to survive in this society. I guess I’m just trying to acknowledge my own privilege here and that my experience is not going to be similar or relevant to everyone (though I also still encourage all people to look for aspects in their lives over which they still have some control and to capitalize (pun not intended) on this). Anyways, so having a salary that is comfortable for you is important and it’s important, at least to me, for self-care and self-worth. So if you’re privileged enough to take a pay cut, also take time to know what’s comfortable for you in terms of pay but also in terms of down time, health and well-being. For me, I took a job that offered me a salary that was less than but still comfortable because I factored in my health and time and me, my humanity as just as important as a comfortable salary. And that, in this society, is revolutionary thinking. Maybe that’s kinda sad but it’s true. So fuck you, corporate America and the Free Market, you lie and your lies and myths were killing me slowly, as they do for so many others, sometimes more blatantly and quickly. You don’t own me and I can and will make decisions you don’t approve of. The stomach pains and headaches and legit nightmares aren’t worth what you tell me they are. I choose nature, health and happiness. I choose me. There are beautiful days out there and, to the best of my ability, I won’t miss them anymore.