Part 6: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."
I know crystal because we are both recent graduates from NYU. Her program, Art & Politics and my program Art, Education, & Community Practice are sister programs. I met crystal even before the year began, at a mixer meant to introduce their cohort to our cohort.
Since we come from similar programs, it should be no surprise that we have many shared interests. We are interested in art, in culture, in politics, in community based work, in the youth. Since we both chose a one year track program, we also have in common that this year was tough. It's hard enough moving across the country--she too moved from California. Throw in the stress of finding a place in New York city, the job necessary to pay for that place in New York city, the desire to maintain relationships with friends and family across the country, the search for a community to build and share with, and well, a full time load of graduate classes, and you've got yourself one stressful year.
A common theme throughout my conversation with crystal was self-care. How do we take care of ourselves? How do we make space for ourselves and for one another?
Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
People who do organizing/activist work are people who work hard, often for little to no money, and often without ever being able to ultimately see the fruits of the seeds that they have sowed. There are times I've felt burned out like no other. This election year, in particular, I have grown weary of discussion, of the tiring road it is to get on the same page with someone whose values are different from my own. It's a difficult task, but it's a necessary one if we ever hope to live in a world where we can have different views and still love each other, respect each other and dialogue with one another.
What this all means, at least to me, is that if we hope to change the world for the better, we must first take care of ourselves. There have been times that I have felt selfish wanting to take care of my own needs. Sometimes that need is simply having a conversation that I know will satiate an anxiety or a discomfort in me. Sometimes that's me going home early because I'm just plain tired. Sometimes it means going for a run, even if there are a million other things that seem more pressing sitting on my to-do list.
Self-care is something I think that I've known was necessary in my gut for a long time. This year, though, I have found a beauty and wonder and glory in self-care within a community. While crystal and I did not get to spend as much time together as I would have liked this year (we are totally staying in touch and that will change!), her openness, grace and willingness to be vulnerable is something I recognize. It's the same openness that I felt when I was with my friends Erika and Emily all year. That same kind of desire to understand one another and ourselves, always constantly seeking to grow and find a more just world to live in in this physical space and on the spiritual plane that we all exist on as well. To taking care of ourselves. To allowing ourselves to be taken care of. To giving ourselves to others.
crystal makes beautiful jewelry that she traded with me. Here is a photo of the necklaces that are now part of my collection!
Enjoy the photos of crystal below!
"The opposite of war isn't peace. It's creation." ~Rent