Shutting Down

April 08, 2021

By Maya Smith

Pledge to Take Action

I called Mitu a couple of weeks ago and told her my computer was acting weird. That’s the extent of my technological vocabulary and I knew Mitu would patiently ask me the most painful of questions (I’d imagine anyway, for someone as savvy as she is speaking to someone who says things like “it’s being slow-y and close-y”) and help me solve my problem.

“When was the last time you turned your computer off, Maya?”

I was stunned by the question. I answered, “Never.”

“Computers need to rest too, Maya.”

Mitu has a habit of repeating your name when she’s talking to you and it makes you feel paid attention to and cared for and in that moment, it also made me feel like we weren’t talking about the computer.

The next week, I took my first vacation since the world shutdown. I shutdown my computer too. I don’t have anything prolific to say about vacation but I do want to be for you what Mitu was for me that day – a reminder that everything and everyone eventually needs to rest. I recognize the privilege I have to take a vacation, to safely leave my home and my work and move my family into another location, especially during this unprecedented and scary time in our world. If a vacation isn’t in the cards for you, then please receive this as encouragement for you to rest, even if just for an hour or an afternoon. You can also click here for expert-vetted self-care tips to find time to care for yourself. 

I spent my vacation letting my daughter finish her whole story, even if it meant I was sitting there for 26 minutes. I exhausted my shoulder throwing a ball to my son as he dove under water to retrieve it. I even let my husband pick documentaries on Hulu and I stayed awake long enough to listen to him lecture me about them the next day and remember vaguely what he was talking about. I took naps. I didn’t check my email or open my computer. I came home and back to my team at Born This Way Foundation grateful and re-energized.

If you’ll let me lecture you for a moment, I just want to say you’re worthy of rest. You don’t have to earn rest. You don’t get a gold star if you sleep the least, send the most number of emails in a day, or say Yes to every request that comes your way. In the conversation with Mitu, I realized people are watching me. I knew – on some level – because I run a global non-profit and share my life on social media and consider myself an influencer in all things food delivery, daily coffees, and kindness. People are watching what I do. I know that, and being watched is a core part of my definition of leadership. I believe everyone has the obligation to lead because every one of us has someone watching them – and in that, we have an opportunity to model leadership. It can be as simple yet powerful as picking up a piece of trash on your sidewalk and inspiring someone else to do the same, using pronouns when you introduce yourself to someone to create a space where affirming others is normalized, or shaping policy on a global level to improve lives; someone is always watching you lead, because leading is part of how you live your life and the decisions you make. That also means people are watching what I don’t do. That part I hadn’t thought much about. People are waiting for me to rest, so they can rest. People are waiting for me to cry, so they can cry. People are waiting for me to get a tan, so they can get a tan. So, I got a tan, and I cried, and I rested. 

I don’t think this is the official answer tech support would give, but I think my computer needs to be shut down for an extended period of time once a quarter. Right, Mitu?

Pledge to Take Action

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