My second semester in college, I found myself sitting in one of my professor’s offices, filled with anxiety about the state of the world and how I felt useless not being able to help everyone who needed it. went to one of your office hours intending on asking for advice on some readings, but instead ended up discussing my struggles in how to keep up with all the tragedies, the injustices, the hurt in the world and how I felt powerless in the face of all of it, especially as I sat in in college and took classes instead of actively fighting against it all.
My professor, who taught about human rights, gently reminded me that by taking the time to learn about the inhumanity of the world, one is building the foundations to understanding how to best support others. He then showed me a comic – “At The Racoons of the Resistance Activism Self Care Workshop” – that changed my life. What kept me going through my most exhausting times and the worst of burnouts while doing this work was the below tiny comic, that has carried me through my academics, my mental health work, my volunteering and everything else. It is still sitting on my desktop today, and I open it and read it once in a while when I feel burnt out, exhausted by the fights we still have to fight. It has been such a lifesaver because it introduced to me the concept of taking care of myself not just for myself but rather for my community as well.
It feels like we are bombarded constantly with daily new atrocities, petitions to sign, injustices that we need to not only learn about completely but also care about enough to actively do something about. It often feels overwhelming to try and keep every difficulty in your head while also trying to balance your own life, and there are people who will point accusatory fingers to others who do not seem to be putting their entire livelihoods into trying to learn about a cause and commit to improving the world.
What I have to remind myself of, with the help of this little comic, is that putting yourself first does not necessarily mean that you are selfish. If you choose to stay in one night instead of going to a protest because you had a really hard day at work, that does not mean that you are inherently uncaring or that you are not invested enough in helping improve our community. Sometimes, it is not just helpful to take time for yourself – it is absolutely necessary. It is difficult to give something your undivided attention and time if you do not have a reserve to give from, and this applies to volunteering and working towards uplifting others as well.
It seems fitting that in my first Channel Kindness article that I emphasize this, because I learned the hard way what happens when you work yourself to the bone, afraid of stopping your work for fear of not being able to support others. Kindness to others is not mutually exclusive to kindness to yourself – in fact, they need to be done together. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself, because you deserve the support that you so heartily give to others.