Soooooo ... in case you haven't heard. My last day at Sacramento State as a tenure track professor was last week. It feels surreal to declare publicly that I took an early retirement and am now working solely as the founder/CEO of the Race and Gender Equity Project, coaching & consulting and directing our community programs.
The last couple of years have forced all of us to examine our priorities, and contemplate the relationship we have with work and rest. For me, that meant deeply examining all the areas of my life. I came to a few conclusions:
Some areas of my life are out of alignment and I have to cut back on the quantity of things I am doing to focus on the quality of my work and relationships.
My family has sacrificed so much for me to go to school and build my career, it is time for me to be more available to them. They tired too y'all.
Racial micro aggressions and white supremacy culture are compounding traumas that impact our mental and physical health. They continue to significantly impact mine.
Bearing witness to injustice (of our young people or in our communities) is also traumatic.
Our excitement about creating a "new normal" quickly gave way to the status quo.
We are still in a global pandemic.
We need time to individually and collectively grieve, detox, and reset.
The only way we can fully dream, imagine and implement transformative change is when we are fully rested.
A bit about my journey
I started my first job at 13 or 14 years old (if you don't count the brief stint I had picking potatoes on my friend's dad's farm when I was about 12). My first real job was at a community pool in Ipswich, Suffolk England. It was the hot spot for youth engagement during the brief English summer. I got fired for giving away free food to hungry youth (ok, they may have been my friends, but still).
My first full-time job was at an Unemployment Office. I was sixteen years old, out of school, and really wanted to make money. I was doing clerical work and I hated every minute of it. I believe that job was one of the things that influenced my decision to move to the US.
After having a baby at seventeen, and working as an undocumented restaurant worker, I pushed through college, and most of my subsequent jobs were internships or work-study positions in my field. I spent the next twenty years inside a variety of governmental systems, building programming, deepening relationships and fighting for justice from the inside. I also went back to school and received my doctorate at the University of San Francisco in International and Multi-cultural Education with an emphasis in Human Rights Education.
I transitioned to Higher Education after graduation, and absolutely love teaching and research. The last few years have been challenging for all of us, especially Black people, Indigenous folks and other people of color. Almost all of the Black women I have talked to express a level of fatigue and exhaustion they struggle to put into words. When we are tired. We must rest. That is what I hope this transition brings me. Not just the opportunity to disconnect, unplug, or cut back, but also the opportunity to engage in the type of rest that breeds creativity and innovation. The type of rest that allows me to dream and reimagine. The type of rest that inspires me to build in new, creative and restful ways.
As I was moving through my career within governmental institutions, I was also accumulating hours towards retirement. This isn't something I thought much about as a young person building a career. The last couple of years I realized how privileged I am.
I am taking much of the next month to engage in a 30-day reset. During this time I am not actively seeking new projects, rather, I am dismantling and detoxing. I am consciously letting go of the ways of being that haven't served me well and building new restorative habits that will move me toward healing and transformation.
I have also succumbed to the academic urge to document the process so I can help others ... I know - I know, I am who I am! If you are interested in learning more about how you can implement a reset in your own life, let me know! I will get back to you at the end of the 30 days (I mean).
Finally, I am working very hard to create new routines and set new boundaries. Someone wise once told me "wherever you go - there you are" and I fully realize, a lot of the reason I keep finding myself barreling toward burnout is because I don't set and maintain the necessary boundaries to prioritize my own mental and physical health. I don't say no ... much. I also realize burn out is not an individual phenomena. It is an individual response to the collective and systemic problem of cis-heteropatriarchy, racialized capitalism and white supremacy culture. As a grapple with these complex frames, I am always led to contemplate what can we "do" to pursue freedom and liberation. More specifically, defining what my role is moving forward.
Tap In ...
I'd love to hear more from all of you.
What are some courageous steps you are taking to prioritize self in your own life?
How do we collectively create spaces that create the kind of change necessary to have harmony between work and rest?
What kinds of collaborations do you imagine us building?