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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