It didn’t occur to me until recently that I truly do not understand the concept of rest. If I have a free weekend, my instant reaction is to immediately fill it with things to do. Even if those things are in essence relaxing (nail appointment, massage, etc.), it quickly starts to feel like a day full of chores. My designated rest days turn into me frantically trying to check everything off of my “self-care errands” list. Can you relate? If so, keep reading.
For as long as I can remember, I was always that child involved in multiple after-school activities. Whether it was track or theater or student government, I always had something to do in addition to my coursework. Throughout most of elementary school I had perfect attendance. I hardly remember missing a day of class–not even after hearing of the passing of my beloved grandmother. When your typical elementary school student would try to spend their summers frolicking around or chillin’ by the pool, I requested math books to practice my multiplication. And when that wasn’t enough, I’d assign homework to my cousins and check over their work as if I were their math teacher. When school was back in session, I would skip recess at daycare to finish and get ahead on homework. Even if it meant that I couldn’t play with the other kids outside that day, I was disciplined and would stay inside to study alone.
Fast forward to college… I skipped meals my freshman year because I felt as though I didn’t have time to eat. I’d study for hours on end with little breaks (despite my grades not always reflecting my efforts). There was a time in college that it snowed during a late-night study session with my physics group. Our professor emailed us saying the test was postponed, which meant I had an extra day to study. Everyone else leaped with excitement and ran outside to enjoy the snow. I stayed back for awhile until they came back and peer pressured me into taking a break. What I should’ve realized then was that I didn’t know how to take a true break. The whole time I was outside, I just thought of the problems I could’ve solved instead. The message I sent to myself was clear– I didn’t deserve rest.
Growing up as a poor black girl in a predominantly white town, I was often reminded of how behind I was financially compared to other families. While other students had a college savings fund, my family lived paycheck to paycheck. If I were to go to college it had to be on my own merit and scholarly achievement. I didn’t have a savings or a back-up plan to work at my parent’s company. I had to make it out of that small-town and working hard was my “golden ticket”. Thus, I kept grinding and never stopped. It was as if I couldn’t rest until I achieved everything I ever wanted. Subconsciously, I believed that I’d rest when I “got there”. The thing is with life, the target is always moving. After you achieve one goal, there’s another one waiting to be tackled. Then you so easily get stuck in this tireless loop of all work with little play.
In a capitalist society that thrives off of overworking and treating ourselves like a commodity, it’s often difficult to rest without the shame or guilt of feeling like you NEED to do be doing something. However, I am here to remind you that rest is crucial to survival. In the words of my therapist, “rest is RESISTANCE”. Even though resting goes against societal pressures, I am learning to give myself grace and allow myself to rest when I need it. I wasn’t taught how to rest growing up, so I don’t recognize that I need to until my anxiety is unmanageable and I’m severely overwhelmed. This is a safe space–I am a work in progress okay!
Let me put it plainly, your worth isn’t tied to your productivity. That PTO that you have–use it!! If something were to happen to you, your job would quickly replace you. You don’t want to look back on your life and wish you had spent more time living in the moment and spending time with your loved ones. It’s possible to still work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labor right NOW. Trust me, that work you have can wait. Believe it or not, the work will still be there tomorrow. The people in your life are precious and your time with them on earth is in fact limited. So go ahead and book that trip or take off work to attend your child’s baseball game. I for one will be taking a nap after posting this.
But before I go, I leave with you these gentle reminders:
- Rest is productive.
- Rest is necessary.
- Rest is not something you must earn.
- Rest is resistance.
- You DESERVE rest.
Chile, now go rest before your body has to sit you down!
With love and light,