Submitted by Rebeca Burciaga
By Erica Lorraine Williams for The Feminist Wire
In response to Toni Cade Bambaraâ€™s classic question in TheSalt Eaters, I am absolutely sure that I want to be well. In fact, I am determined to be well. I have been haunted by the legacies of premature death of black women academics since before I chose to enter into the academy. What does wellness look like for black women in the academy, and what are some strategies that we can utilize to achieve it? As an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Spelman College entering my fourth year on the tenure-track, I have learned some tips and strategies for balance and wellness that I only wish I had known in college and graduate school….
For me, self-care quite simply means setting boundaries on how and when I work. I refuse to run myself into the ground by working around the clock with no time for rest and relaxation. The academy tends to privilege a lack of sleep, workaholic tendencies, and scholarly productivity at the expense of everything else. I refuse to sacrifice my nights and (whole) weekends for work. Evenings are reserved for exercise, family time, home-cooked meals, and general â€œdown time,â€ and I will not be made to feel guilty about that.
I want to be a prolific scholar, to open studentsâ€™ minds, and to make an impact on my institution and my community. However, I canâ€™t â€“ and I wonâ€™t â€“ do this at the expense of my health and well-being. I am haunted by stories of women of color who worked so hard to earn tenure that once they got it they were too burnt out â€“ suffering from fatigue and chronic illness â€“ to enjoy it. I refuse to fall into this trap of self-destruction. Just as people often say that being a parent is a full-time job, self-care is also a full-time job! Sometimes my days feel so long because I am running from one thing to the next, even if some of those things Iâ€™m running to include Afro-Cuban dance class at 7:30pm after a long day of office hours, writing, and a 3-hour honors seminar.
It is one thing to say that self-care is important, however, how does one actually fit it into a busy schedule?
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