I have mentioned in previous posts that when I came to college, I came at a time when I felt like I needed my own space. I had lived in the living room of my grandparents’ house since I first came to this country, and was excited at the thought of having a space to myself. Additionally, I was in awe of the possibilities that the freedom of college promised. Amid all the joy, I was committed to calling my mother every day.
A lot has changed since my first year. With time, I’ve grown consumed by the culture of business that pervades my campus and have fallen into some of the dangerous habits it entails. As I became more consumed in on-campus community engagement and in some ways became more “visibly” active, I met a lot of cool people and would be commended by people, people that I sometimes did not know. “You’re amazing. Oh my gosh, how do you do so much. You’re such a great person.” My involvement in this community engagement stemmed from very personal reasons. At the same time, receiving affirmations from my peers to me felt like a sign that I was doing something right. It encouraged me to continue my involvement in these activities, often times at the expense of my own physical and mental health. I think it is important to acknowledge the work, commitment, and emotional labor it takes to be in so many spaces at once and keep things moving in the different advocacy roles one plays. However, I think that too much praise and too much “idolizing” of people who devote themselves to many causes and activities is also dangerous. Without realizing it, we may be placing more weight on the shoulders of those who have already internalized an incredible sense of responsibility in the world and who exert themselves to an unhealthy extent. My conception of freedom upon entering college, as ample time and space to explore my identities, to discover myself, to try out new things and meet new people, and to spend time and energy working on cultivating the person I want to become shifted by my second year in college. Freedom now sometimes means having the choice between finishing my work for the next day, or sleeping. At times, freedom is deciding between eating or making my next meeting. My time is divided between classes, academic research, on and off-campus organizing, and every once in a while, activities that don’t feel like work, like soccer or dance. I want to believe that I’ve gotten better at seizing and resting in the moments of joy I share with the friends with which I share my time. My mental space is consumed in so many different activities, responsibilities, and spaces in my immediate surroundings, that I sometimes now spend days without talking to or even thinking about the people I love that don’t occupy my immediate surroundings, like my family and friends back home.
Today, my mother called me to ask me why I hadn’t called in a while. My initial reaction was to make a joke and lightheartedly downplay the situation. Over time, my calls home are more infrequent and it is my mother now who usually takes it upon herself to check up on me. Today’s call with my momma reflected the extent to which I have been spreading myself thin. By coincidence, the following video came up on my newsfeed a few hours later:
More than anything, today was a reminder of how insignificant my homework, my work, or any of my responsibilities are next to the woman who has sacrificed everything to give me the life I am now fortunate enough to be living.