Self-Care As An Act Of Resistance

Jinwoo Chong\The Hoya

JINWOO CHONG/THE HOYA

Almost half my time at Georgetown has been a time of deep, resounding depression. Sophomore and junior year were some of my worst and best times at Georgetown. I have enjoyed this place, but I had given so much to people that I did not leave much for myself. An old saying sums up my experience with giving and caring for the community, “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”

It was not until about a year ago that I learned about the beauty of self-care and how self-care is truly a radical act of resistance. When I think about my time at Georgetown, I wonder: If I had taken greater care of myself, more than I did others, what would I be like today? If I had not had those hourlong conversations in O’Donovan Hall, Lauinger Library or wherever else several times a week, would my body be more fit, my pocket fatter, or would I maybe have Latin letters next to my name on that giant diploma?

The answer? I do not know. I do know that I have gained weight, hustled hard for my money and received many bad grades. I often tell people my transcript is an alphabet soup because I have about every letter grade you can get on there. I have asked for more extensions and turned in more late papers than the average Hoya. I have used period tricks, f—ed with page margins, skipped classes and fallen asleep in them too, all for the sake of being present for other people.

While I do not regret what or whom I poured myself into during my time at Georgetown, I do regret not caring enough for myself to know when to say “No.” Those long nights and hours were important, but because those hours were precious to my whole being, they came at a cost. They came with the cost of depression, anxiety, not being able to study abroad, gaining weight — and the list goes on.

While I am not saying my commitments and loyalty to people were a direct result of my perpetual struggles, I will say that they were a catalyst and build-up of a supersonic tornado that I simply could not escape. I loved the moments I gave up to be present for my friends, but I wish I could have found the balance to love myself in those moments.

As a black woman, I am almost destined to carry the burden of others and be seen as someone who can handle more — if you do not believe me, then take an African American studies class for the receipt. I have realized over these four years how many folks have ideas of who I am and project qualities that I do not necessarily claim for myself. Slowly I have learned to deconstruct those labels and claim my identity for myself. Whether it be my Blackness, my fatness, my mental health, my faith or whatever, these identities are mine and are here for myself to deconstruct only.

That is why I see self-care as an act of resistance. I am now choosing to take care of myself, whatever the circumstance. In a world where I am told that I am not worth the time, worth taking care of or worth loving, I now resist these notions.

If I could talk to my past self, I would tell her to give a little less to others and give more to herself. Because if I am not here for myself there is no possible way I can be present for other people in my life, especially those whom I love. It is perfectly okay to give, discover and grow in ways that you may have never imagined before, but remember to always keep yourself at the center. The phenomenal Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said something I will never forget at this year’s Lavender Graduation: “Go where the silences are, draw brave maps, grow some wild things.” And, if I might add, take care of yourself in the process.

 

Crystal Walker is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.

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8 Comments

  1. Preach! Rooting for you post college – sounds like yu have a great head on your shoulders and you’re going to go far.

  2. What strikes me about this article, and what makes me rather sad, is that, on the one hand, Ms. Walker seems to see her future as pre-determined by the obstacles that she faces as a black woman. She is destined to have burdens placed on her that others don’t have to carry, and deal with the preconceived notions of others. Yet at the same time, she says that “these identities are mine and are here for myself to deconstruct only.” Doesn’t this mean that she can choose how to define herself? She says that if we want to understand her experience, we should take an African American Studies class. However, whatever such a class might teach one about the experience of African American women in general, what does it say about Ms. Walker as an individual? Even if she encounters experiences that parallel those discussed in such a class, does she have to view them as her destiny?

    If I have misunderstood Ms. Walker’s arguments, I am sorry, and if anyone cares to enlighten me further I am deeply grateful. Yet, if one’s takeaway, after four years at institution that encourages its students to be “men and women for others,” is that one should just “take care of oneself regardless of the circumstances,” that seems incredibly sad. I have wrestled with the tension between self-interest and service to a community a lot myself, and my experience may be different than Ms. Walker’s but my point is that if one is free to define oneself, why not choose a more empowering route, one which doesn’t seem so based in pain?

  3. Crystal, I am the co-founder of GirlTrek, we are thousands of black women who believe that self-care is a revolutionary act. You can learn more on our website. I really appreciate what you wrote and I would 1.) love to welcome you into our community and 2.) take a walk with you anytime your available – I live in Georgetown. :-)

    • Crystal Walker says:

      Vanessa!!! I’m just now seeing your comment or else I would have responded sooner! I’m no longer in D.C., but please email me and I would love to join the community and receive more information about GirlTrek. My email is cnw40@georgetown.edu. Can’t wait to connect!!

  4. Cristina says:

    Dear Crystal,
    I was unaware of your impending graduation last time I saw you. Reading this, I was obviously unaware of many, many things. I just wanted to tell you that seeing you in my department always made my day a little bit brighter, less dull, more interesting, and that you were always helpful and professional and I should have told you all this before you left Georgetown.

    Good luck Crystal! Give yourself some time at first. Celebrate the ups, and be patient with the downs.
    Un fuerte abrazo!
    c

    • Crystal Walker says:

      Professor Sanz!! aww Thank you so much for your sweet words and reading my piece! I hope you are doing well and enjoying summer. Miss you!

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