2016 Wrap-Up: Self-Care and Finding Your Community

Hello all! Wow, time sure does fly when you are disillusioned by the state of your country after it elects a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot for president having fun. Over the past four months, I have taken leave from The Quiet Voice to apply to graduate school, conduct a senior honors thesis, maintain a full course load, work two part-time jobs, and volunteer. I missed blogging a lot, so I wanted to write this informal post about what I have been up to before I publish my annual bookish wrap-up later this week.

This semester, I focused a lot on self-care and cultivating a healthful work-life balance. Our society often glorifies being stressed and busy all the time, at the expense of everyday happiness and harmony. While a moderate amount of stress can serve as a solid source of motivation, I wanted to create a balanced lifestyle based more so on my values, especially as someone who wants to work as a therapist in the next stage of my career. So, in addition to everything on my to-do list, I almost always got seven hours of sleep, worked out every day, ate good food, and set aside time to hang out with friends. I think these practices enhanced my productivity in the long run, too, as I approached my work with renewed energy and enthusiasm after attaining adequate rest.

stop-glorifying-stress

An image floating around on Tumblr that exemplifies how I feel about glorifying resilience and self-care, instead of burnout and stress.

I also have spent a decent amount of time thinking about the concept of finding community. The election shocked me. Not in such a way that I felt surprised, though I did a little, but more so as if I received a physical shock, that feeling of fear that electrifies your bones and simmers, when you realize that 62 million people voted against minorities’ right to exist in this country. Of course my mind jumped to solutions – donate! have conversations about racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. at an earlier age! – but, especially for those who feel most threatened by an impending Trump presidency, it is imperative to find people who care about you and express that care, before attempting anything else.

I remember reading books with gay characters in high school, how those stories (What They Always Tell Us, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, just to name a few) helped me accept my homosexuality. And throughout college, I have had the privilege to find friends who also care about mental health, Asian American identity, writing, and other topics I hold dear to my heart. Not to mention how grateful I am to have this blog and all of the amazing connections I have made through it, the bonds and memories that keep me coming back after seven years and counting.

My main point: take care of yourself, and spend time with people who uplift you. Though 2016 showed the darkest side of our country, I believe that we can create real change if we bond over and act based on our shared values of compassion, empathy, and social justice. And when things get rough over the upcoming years, I hope that, especially for my friends of color and my queer friends, you can find a community that supports you, whether that community comes from books, blogs, your friends in real life, or elsewhere.

I was once in a very rough, dark place. I fought for and achieved healing with the support of cherished mentors, books, and friends (including folk from my online community). Though our country – and several individuals within our country – may never get to a place of full equity or recovery, that is no point to stop trying, as we can still cultivate at least a little more justice, and a little more peace, for everyone.

ariana-grande-christmas-card-made-by-vivian

What would one of my blog posts be without a homage to the new queen of pop, Ariana Grande? Look at this Christmas card my little cousin made me. As you can discern, I love bot my little cousin and Ariana Grande both very much.

What are your favorite ways to practice self-care? How have you been coping with (or dare I say it, celebrating) the election? Has anyone else applied to grad school/internships for the upcoming year? Hope you are all doing well and look forward to another post this Saturday, the 31st!

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “2016 Wrap-Up: Self-Care and Finding Your Community

  1. It’s so good to hear from you, Thomas! “Self care is not selfish” is the mantra I learned at Student Leadership Training last August and I’ve found myself having to repeat it to myself so often this past year. I’m so glad you focused on self care because it’s such a valuable skill to master. We’re trapped in this constant mindset of competing to be the most exhausted and stressed and it’s so hard to escape that, but I’m really, really glad that you’re practicing more self-care this year–I’m taking baby steps with self-care, too.

    The election results are still hard to talk about, but I love how positive this post is, so thank you for your positive mindset on this issue! Also: this is entirely selfish but I would love to read posts about your process with grad school applications. I know you posted quite a bit about your process in applying for college/taking SATs/etc. and that helped a LOT so…not sure that applies to a lot of other readers but I know I’d love a post on how you managed to balance so much this past semester, especially with self-care in the mix too!! 🙂

    Can’t wait to see your favorite books of the year, Thomas, and I hope you’re doing well! I’ve recently become an Ariana convert (umm, Dangerous Woman was such a good album!!!) so I think of you almost every time I listen to one of her songs, haha. Take care and wonderful post, as always, Thomas!

    • Hey Keertana, so glad to hear that you’ve also been focusing on self-care – that’s so important in our society, especially for minority groups who have been under a lot of stress as of late. You seem like a very ambitious and accomplished and busy person, so your dedication to self-care is even more necessary, I’d say. As for grad school, if you ever want to chat about it, just let me know – you can fb message me for my phone # and we can text/call, just because sometimes it’s hard to communicate via web. But for now (and maybe I will expand this into blog posts later on), I’d say: 1) start early, so use the summer to pick your schools/draft essays/study and take standardized tests, 2) use your resources, so professors and friends and writing centers that can help with essay revision and what not, and 3) stay on top of self-care, which I think we’re both all about! I know some people who kinda crashed and burned this year because they devoted so much of themselves to this process, which makes sense, but I know that I and others were able to be just as intense while still always getting 7 hours of sleep, working out every day, eating healthfully, etc. I’d also say that it’s important to cultivate a strong internal sense of what you value so that no matter what the result is at the end of the grad school app process, you still know you did your best.

      Thank you so much for mentioning my queen Ariana Grande! Hope your travels are going well. (:

  2. Thomas! So glad to be hearing what you have been up to.
    Like you, I’ve been applying for higher education as well: college, in my case.
    This year, in the grand scope of the world, seems to be all over the place, the election including one of them! That night, I couldn’t concentrate on anything and was physically feeling unwell. My stance on Trump is not optimistic, but I will never give up on the people! (People like you). You are right: there is no point to stop trying.

    Hope you are having a wonderful holiday break,

    Grace

    • Grace! I am so glad to hear from you! How are you doing? Do you know where you’ll be heading for college? That’s so exciting that you’re continuing on your educational and personal journey – I feel like it was just yesterday when you were starting high school. Yes, election night was an awful, awful time (I literally cried.) But we have to keep fighting for what we believe in and defending the rights of the disadvantaged and marginalized. Hope you’re well, and I’m excited to catch up on your blog now.

  3. It’s great to hear how you’re doing and I can’t believe you’re applying to graduate school already – how time flies!

    Well done on getting your work-life balance right. It’s so important to push against the cult of “presenteeism” and take time for yourself. I have a list of self-care things to do and I make sure I take some exercise and do some reading every day. I also keep the house clean (but am paid for it – wages for housework, an old feminist call!) as that just makes me feel less jittery.

    Looking forward to your book post, and loving that you have your community there and here. I love the diversity of mine – runners, readers, bloggers, people of different nationalities / ethnicities / orientations to my own. Each person different to me who I encounter helps me to understand others who share characteristics, lifestyles or choices with them. I do struggle with right-wingers, though!!

    • So many wonderful things in this comment, Liz! That is so wonderful that you have a list of self-care things to do and that you always make time for exercise and reading – we’re similar in that regard. We’re also similar in our appreciation of diversity. I feel like it’s so important to appreciate everyone’s different backgrounds and how we can all learn from each other and grow into more compassionate, tolerant humans. I also struggle with right-wingers at times, just because some can be intolerant or opposed to diversity and human rights. But I’m trying to see their humanity to, or at least where those not-so-nice beliefs come from (e.g., family members, unhealthful media consumption, etc.) Hope you are well!

  4. 2016 was an abysmal year for many reasons, but I’m relieved and happy to hear that you’ve been leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle amid your busy schedule. And I can’t agree more with your spiel on the recent election. Thank you for staying positive and for reminding us all what’s important.

    Also, good luck on your graduate school applications (and interviews). I’m sure there’ll be a program (if not several) that will recognize they need you as a student.

    I hope that your last semester of undergrad proves to be one where you can conquer with ease. Have a restful break and happy new year, Thomas. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment, Summer! The grad school process went amazing, luckily, and the last semester of undergrad has been ripe with meaningful challenges and accomplishments. Hope you’ve been well. (:

  5. Hard to believe you’re about to be in Grad School! I feel like just yesterday you were starting at W&M. Yeah 2016 was pretty crappy for me, but for different reasons than the election (basically my personal life took a giant divebomb), although that was equally depressing. Because of the personal life crisis, I have discovered how important self-care really is, whether it is taking yourself out for lunch, doing your nails, counseling, or just reading.

    • Yeah, it is definitely odd that I am on my way to grad school now. Time sure does fly. I’m so sorry that your personal life took a divebomb. 😦 But I’m glad to hear that you’ve been practicing self-care and that you know there are multiple ways to do that – through reading, counseling, etc.

  6. Jas

    I’m so happy that you’re able to balance all of these things Thomas!!! What’s your secret? (Seriously, I’m volunteering double hours next semester while also taking on a full course load, continuing a work study position, and looking for another part time job- I could use some tips on not burning out!!)

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