By DeLauren Olivia Davis, M.Ed. ‘18
Whether you’re gearing up to finish a strong third quarter or refueling yourself to start the academic year 2021-2022, I hope that you’re taking care of yourself. Since we were slammed with the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 it feels like “self care” has become a frivolous buzz phrase to throw around when convenient. I do my best to take it seriously, remember it’s origin in meaning and assign it value in my life. In doing this I endeavor to model it so that others feel empowered to do so themselves.
My transformative journey to self care started at William and Mary (W&M). Like most TWAMPS (Typical William and Mary Persons/Students) I double majored in academics and a robust extracurricular life. I often tell people that I experienced two full burnouts as an undergraduate student. This isn’t a point of bolstering pride for me, but it is more so a testimony that there was a crucial life lesson for me to learn. Attending a public ivy league institution and being a campus leader for countless student organizations (I literally can’t keep track of all of the campus engagements that I found myself in) is no easy feat. It was simultaneously fulfilling and unsustainable— as are many things that we enjoy but over indulge in. The symptoms of my burn out were failed and withdrawn classes, neglect of family and friends, lack of regular physical activity and healthy eating, absence of financial and spiritual discipline, excessive stress and anxiety… the list goes on and on and on.
At this point you’re probably wondering… “Where is/are she/they going with this?” I promise the silver lining is coming soon.
After graduating and continuing straight to graduate school I was forced to take a hard look in the mirror as round three of burnout was both quickly and surely approaching. In that short summer post undergrad when I moved to Athens, Georgia for my graduate studies, I didn’t make any major changes other than that of my physical environment (shout out to my Georgia Peaches and Bulldogs). Grad school is hard enough by itself. Being at another prestigious institution and in a top nationally ranking program didn’t lift any of the pressure that I felt to succeed. My burnout symptoms continued, and that caused me to search for the source of this workaholic ailment.
It is much easier to care for oneself when you can identify the cause of your lacking. As I found myself reflecting on my time at W&M (I do this quite often) I learned that I tied my personal value and worth to my productivity as a student and as a leader. This is a huge no-no. You are worthy of care of yourself and from others for merely existing. This was the lesson that took me a concentrated six years of failure to learn. In March 2020, I took a decent enough stance to make a change in my life because I had the gift of the absence of certainty as it pertained to my human existence. To this date, I have survived the first global epicenter of COVID-19 and I’m currently surviving in the epicenter of the United States of America. Self care is crucial to me more than ever because of how uncertain our time on this Earth has become.
I leave you with this advice: Whether you’re an aspiring W&M student, current student, young alum or seasoned alum, please take care of yourself. It will have the most positive ripple effect into all aspects of your life in ways that you might not be able to imagine at this point. If you don’t know where to begin, go back to the simple things that made you happy as a kid. Was it a favorite tv show? A song? A hug? A piping hot dish of Grandma’s mac n’ cheese? Find your inner child and care for him/her/them. You’ll find that things in your life will naturally begin to align. I leave you with this timely quote from Chaz Miller @cdiddy77, “The most important reason to live in the moment is that nothing lasts forever—enjoy the moment while it’s in front of you. Be present.”