I came across a link on Twitter a while ago to a blog called The Crunk Feminist Collective. One of the posts on it, Back-to-School Beatitudes: 10 Academic Survival Tips, really resonated with me. I’ve had it open in my internet browser tabs for *mumble* weeks now, rereading it every so often in order to remind myself: hey! self-care is important when you’re in school, or teaching school, or otherwise involved with academia/education.
Especially as I’m spending another semester adjuncting, I’m trying to prioritize self-care and sanity. As I wrote in a guest blog post on the new blog Conditionally Accepted, I’m struggling with my sense of self-worth and validation (both externally and internally) right now. This fact makes self-care all the more important. As in the 10 Academic Survival Tips post linked to above, I try to be patient with myself, and to be “better not bitter.” I try to bring in discussion topics that will excite me, because I think they’ll excite my students, too (and so far I’ve been right). I try to keep in mind that teaching is a service profession: I am there to serve the students by helping them learn as best I can. And yet I also deserve a job with stability, with benefits, and so on… someday, at least. There’s still a part of my brain that’s convinced I’m not a grown-up yet, and so I’m willing to keep doing jobs that are reminiscent of my experience in grad school (the “do it because you love it” reasoning) for at least a little while yet. Another part of my brain, upon me typing that statement, tries to come to terms with the privilege inherent in it, that I can afford a “do it because you love it” mentality because of my social/economic class. I have enough of a safety net that if this doesn’t work out, I won’t be on the streets.
But back to self-care. I need movement and creativity in my life, emotional support and intellectual stimulation. I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out how to supply these things: directing a dance performance troupe, attending conferences (at least 2/year), cooking at least a few times a week, pursuing connections with friends and family as often as possible, and squeezing in some pleasure reading even when time is tight. As I thrive on goals, I also like to have one or two projects in the works.
One aspect of self-care I’ve been working on is communication about it. As an introvert, I need to be pro-active about getting alone-time… but I also need to be careful in how I phrase it (“I could use some time to recharge” usually goes over better than “Go away, I’m reading”). And I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere with it. During a meeting with my partner to go over finances, he urged me to allocate some money to an exercise budget so I can take classes of some sort (yoga and CrossFit are the two things I’m most interested in pursuing right now) because he knows that I’m happiest when I can get a physical workout to go along with my mental exertions. Knowing that I’ve managed to convey this fact about myself, and additionally gain support for it, makes me happy.
I want to accomplish a lot in life, but I realize that I won’t accomplish anything at all if I’m a burned-out hollow shell of a person. So even though self-care can eat up a lot of hours each week, I’m willing to invest the time in it – because it’s investing in myself (and lest this sound too clinical, don’t worry, the workaholic side of my personality will never take over completely; I enjoy enjoying myself too much to let that happen for too long at a time). Maybe self-care as self-investment sounds obvious, but to those of us who’ve been trained to give academia our all, it can be an important realization to reach, then put into words, and then communicate. Which is exactly what I hope I’ve done here.