So much pressure.
I teach personal and social adjustment this semester. A foundational concept in the class is the paradox of progress. Simply put, technological advances have been great, but they also cause a lot of stress. We’re just so plugged in. And worse, we’re expected to stay plugged in. At all times.
I remember, acutely, waiting in line with my mentor at a coffee shop in St. Louis when she remarked that I never give myself a break. I was a young activist and advocate, and frankly, I didn’t ever give myself even the slightest break. I expected so much of myself that, 10 years later, I look back and wonder how the hell I didn’t collapse. I judged myself if I wasn’t activist-ing (because that’s a word) at all times. And when I look back now, I see the pressure from other activists for everyone to be activisting (I officially declare that this is a word) nonstop. It hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s worse because technology allows us to be connected to our communities 24-7. That’s the paradox.
I used to insist that I’d never become a cynical “older” activist who lost hope. But hope be damned, we all need breaks. Pausing doesn’t mean we care any less. It’s okay to step away – from a cause, a relationship, whatever – when it isn’t serving us. We’ll be better for it. Yes, we’ll get the texts asking us where we are. We’ll be judged. We’ll feel guilty. But other people don’t get to tell us what’s right for us. We are the experts on our own lives.
So go ahead, walk away, disengage. And when people judge you, send them my way. I’ll text them and tell them to leave you alone.