story | Kan Ren Jie, Contributing Reporter

photo | Xuerui Yang

I could’ve left the classroom, but I didn’t.

Instead, I sat restlessly in the silence, trying to complete my readings for next week, while fighting my sleepiness and flu-like symptoms.  Along with my physical discomfort was the anxiety about upcoming deadlines; it was the ambient fear that haunted me in the sterility and solitude of the classroom.  At that moment, a lazy Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I came to a realization that never occurred to me in my years of trying to be “studious”: I was overworking, and neglecting my own well-being in the process.

Growing up in an education system that stresses personal achievement and seemingly punishes the lack of “hard work”, it has become apparent to me that I was infected with a form of tunnel vision.   A relentless focus on work became my modus operandi.  It seemed socially acceptable to sacrifice myself in the pursuit of those elusive As.  Pull those all-nighters.  Have 4 to 5 hours of sleep everyday.  It’s all okay, it’s all worth it.

Thankfully, I decided to take a break that Saturday afternoon.  It was then that I realized the importance of self-care, this concept  that I previously dismissed as some new-age mumbo jumbo.  Self-care seemed to lie in opposition to the impetus to work hard and achieve my goals.  However, it is precisely amidst the most challenging circumstances that self-care becomes crucial.  After I began carving out some time for rest and leisure following that Saturday afternoon, I found myself in a calmer state, less daunted by  challenges that previously seemed insurmountable.  Additionally, the support of friends was so apparent in those simple yet beautiful things that we as a school community do to help one another.   Those conversations, those little acts of kindness, reminded me that I’m not alone in this journey, and that it is possible to find joy in the pursuit of our dreams.

Audre Lorde, an American poet, wrote the oft-quoted line: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” This line is derived from the epilogue of a collection of essays entitled A Burst of Light, in which Lorde describes her experiences of living with liver cancer.  We may not face the same struggles as Lorde, but self-care can still be an act of political warfare for us.  In practicing good self-care, we resist the persistent pressure to base our identity and self-worth on the work we have done.  We resist the impulse to see ourselves as mindless robots, to which well-being is secondary.   Above all, we resist the insidious notion that busyness is necessarily good. Let us rest, so that we can run the long race ahead.

For another opinion on self-care, read D Dangaran’s article.

The views expressed here are the author’s own. The Octant welcomes all voices in the community. Email submissions to: yncoctant@gmail.com

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