I was in search of a reset or a restart button for a while, and thought that summer would be the answer to what I was looking for. I thought that if I wake up one morning in a new city and welcome a new day looking full-heartedly ahead — then nothing can bring me down, right?
But in the midst of moving to a new city and starting a new job, life was also intertwined with all the things that still needed tending back in MA. From unfinished research papers to forgotten book reviews to summer projects to all the other things on a long to-do list, I couldn’t really let everything go and start anew like I had so longingly romanticized.
As the demands of work started to ramp up and I found myself working long overtime hours and weekends, I found little-to-no time for myself. Even though I love my work and where I’m at — both in the physical location-sense and metaphorical-sense, it didn’t make things any easier. And it was especially difficult as the emotional fatigue started to set in, tending to the concerns of my staff and students. No long did it feel like I was simply climbing mountains, rather I felt as if I was carrying a mountain until I could feel myself sinking from the weight. I was perpetually tired and running on fumes.
I found my resiliency tested. Every roadblock no longer felt like something I could handle on my own, rather it felt crushing. It was a lesson that I had to (re)learn: burn out is real.
Nearly every single human in my life was telling me to be sure to take care of myself, to say no to obligations that I couldn’t add to my plate, or find some down time. Though I know it’s coming from a place of good intention and love for me, I actually hated hearing this. I would actually feel my stomach churn as I think “I’m trying!! Don’t you think I know this already?!” I would then proceed to feel even worse than I did before about “failing at taking care of myself” especially when it’s something that I pay careful attention to.
My thinking was completely irrational. My anger was misplaced. But I think that the past few weeks of stress has muddled my brain a bit (a lot). And they were right: I needed to to care for myself.
As summer is settling in, I’m learning to tend to my heart and tend to this mighty body of mine. I’m learning that caring for yourself is not a grandiose gesture or an overindulgent weekend dedicated to “treating yourself” (though, it doesn’t hurt). It’s allowing myself to take an hour nap for the first time in weeks. It’s making time to schedule phone calls or a FaceTime conversation. It’s remembering to take my multivitamins every morning. It’s an evening face mask for the joy of it or an afternoon cold brew because well, we all know how much I love coffee. It’s unraveling each knot in this twisted brain of mine, one string at a time.
It’s also giving myself some grace and being patient with myself. It’s being okay with asking for patience from others as I work through this mental roadblock. It’s being okay with not being okay for a little bit. It’s being okay with sitting in discontent and uncertainty. It’s breathing out the negativity, and breathing in the sweet summer air. It’s finding time to be thankful for all that I have. It’s finding time to tell the people in my life “I love you” and “thank you for being there”. It’s caring for myself so that I can care for others.
And already I feel so much better. Especially as I start to check the things off on my to-do list (it’s still long…but not quite as long!), I feel the grip of my tendency to overcommit loosen quite a bit. I’m able to get a taste of the fruits of my labor, and it’s exciting. The research project that I have worked all year on is *finally* completed and hopefully it will lead to a published research article in an academic journal as well as an article in a well-respected higher education publication! This conference proposal is also *finally* submitted and I’m optimistic about hearing good news in August (fingers crossed). I’m hopefully going to finish this book review this week, and fingers crossed about that being published as well. I’m speaking some things into existence, because, well, I can use a little extra bit of support from the universe.
It’s the upswing, y’all.
I’m already past the midway point of my summer internship in St. Louis (how?!), and can feel the routine easing in. I love the work that I do with my students, and my staff reminds me every day how lucky I get to work with such a talented group of students full of dedication and such heart for what they do. The second half of my internship means we’re entering the time of celebrations and finishing strong together. And only six weeks left in St. Louis, I’m working through my bucket list even more rapidly — making sure to visit all the places and eat all the foods. I’m thinking about weekend trips to Chicago. I’m thinking of days I’ll spend climbing and exploring the Ozarks. I’m thinking of all the memories I’ve already made in this Midwestern city that I’ve grown quite attached to.
I’m already preparing to buy my flight back to Massachusetts. I’m Skyping with my adviser this week to talk about classes and plans in the fall. I’m thinking about my new job that starts pretty much the minute I head back east. I’m thinking of what’s coming ahead, but I’m not letting that overwhelm me.
I’m focusing on the right now.
I’m easing myself into all that I do. I’m forgiving myself for the times in which I could have been more patient, more understanding, more rational, more anything. I’m forgiving myself for not being kind enough to myself. I’m giving myself grace for trying and for having heart. I’m finding myself really thankful for the right now, and for today. And I’ll remain thankful for every today I get.