Humanity

By Kristina Harris

One day, when I was going about my business, my friend invited me to a yoga class. We both thought it could be interesting, but we were really sold on the price: free. At the beginning of the class, they packed us into a room, making space for latecomers, smiled and walked us through what would happen at this particular event. The yoga instructor ushered us into child’s pose and set an intention for the class: ‘what does your body need?’ She asked us this when things were challenging, when we were in unfamiliar poses, and when we were back in shavasana. The question was interesting to me, because she wasn’t telling us to push past everything our body was telling us so as to pull our leg behind our ears. She was asking us to ask ourselves when we can push and when do we back off. When do we need to rest for some water, and when do we need to reset in child’s pose?

I found this message interesting, because I realized I wasn’t frequently checking-in and asking, what is it that I need? For example, a few years ago, my knee was bothering me. I was running track and I always loathed seeing the trainers. I always felt like something hurt before I went, but they always gave me exercises that seemed to hurt more than my original ailment. But this time, it turned out I tore my meniscus, ACL and broke a weird bone in my knee. The whole ordeal was not ideal, and I was not a hero about the process – I was quite possibly the worst patient the kind people at NYU Langone had seen that day. My friends came by, offering their well wishes. Then they went back to their lives and I just sat there with my recently spliced open joint. Once the pain kind of subsided, I just sat with my thoughts. I was annoyed that my knee kept throbbing, and I just wanted it to be better. I had no idea how or what I needed to do – I just didn’t want to watch any more TV, and I had read everything I could read. My trainer said if I promised to try yoga, I could reduce my PT schedule. That was an easy trade. Which is why, when my friend had told me she had found a free yoga studio, I was all in.

So, in the middle of stretching and pulling my limbs every which way, I realized there was some healing happening. At first, I noticed I was breathing deeper, which helped me focus. But then I realized I could breathe, and I mean really breathe, before a test, a race, a date, anywhere! It felt like I was putting my body and brain together for the first time. I was also running faster than ever. 

Yoga was the first time someone told me to listen to my body and give it what it needs. To not push and push, but to take note of how you are actually showing up that day. Maybe one leg is more flexible than the other. Perhaps you are more sore today than you were yesterday. Maybe you are more distracted with all you have to do later, and you are a little off balance and need to focus on staying focused. But one thing was consistent: you are never the same you who shows up on the mat. But even with that obvious fact in mind, I do not always treat myself kindly for not being as flexible as I was before, or as productive as I was the day before.

Although it is innately human to know instinctively what you need, people hardly take what they need. It is brushed aside as selfish and indulgent to listen to your body if you need to rest. People don’t often treat themselves with the simple kindnesses they give so easily to others. They don’t take a walk, or get ice cream, or understand when their body is demanding a nap.

Yoga to the People brought a little slice of humanity back to me. I got a little bit more patient with myself, my body and my emotions. I am working on being kinder when I feel like comparing myself to the old me. This free yoga class was making a space for me to realize what I needed. People need something like that, something that costs nothing but heals just the same. Once while I was sitting in child’s pose at the beginning of class, a student on the mat next to me just started bawling. Not polite tears. Body wracking sobs. The teacher came over and just placed her hand on her back, and when she began to stop crying, she just looked up and said, ‘thank you, I really needed that.’ It’s odd to say, but sometimes being a human simply means you know what you need, and you act on it.

This small place in New York probably trained thousands of people from all corners of the world, but they gave each and every person something different to take back with them. They set an intention, gave people space to get some peace, and then sent them off into the world to pass it on.

So, set your own intention. Take note of what your body is telling you. And take what you need, when you need it. Show yourself a little humanity and compassion. You’re not crazy for listening to your body when it tells you to rest. It would be crazier not to. 

Image: iStock

How to side hustle

by Kristina Harris

Look, you’re having a crisis. Who the hell isn’t? So, be honest: why are you working? Why do you do what you do everyday? You complain about it a lot. And you aren’t even too sure if you’re good at it. We don’t need to mention the pandemic, but, for argument’s sake, working from home has given us all too much time to think. All you know is that you don’t like it. But what’s next? 

You might be selling cupcakes on the side and that’s been bringing in extra money. Or perhaps you are a kick ass babysitter, and enjoying the tax free revenue it brings. But what you really love to do is knit. And you have found a way to make some money from that. 

So, you have a side hustle. (I get knitting might not be yours, but for the sake of this argument we are going to pretend that it is.) You love to knit sweaters for bunnies, and the market you’ve seen thus far is poppin’. But let’s say you take this hobby to the next level. You want to move it from a ‘when you have time’ activity, to a full on, money making, life thrilling, side hustle. But you have this massive wet blanket that’s keeping you down, and that’s your full-time job. You know – the place you show up to every day, where you stay way longer than 9-5 that helps pay your bills but doesn’t at all cover your lavish spending on your treat-yo-self items. You know – the thing that you “use your college degree” for? 

The point is, you can’t quit your real job, because of food, and rent, and other boring stuff. But you can’t give up your side hustle, because of your mental stability, your natural ability to knit, and overall happiness.

So, you’re stuck? Well, join the masses. If you’re anything like the youngsters I know, you are not alone. You just need to break it down. First, you need time management skills. Not necessarily a plan – but a plan would be excellent if that’s your thing. You need to set deadlines, the same way your real job does. If you want it to be real, you need to treat it like it’s real. In your dreams, you are the only one there. So, you need to hold yourself accountable. If your boss asked you to get them that spreadsheet by EOD you bet your bottom dollar you would find a way to get it in their inbox before you left. So, why not put the same urgency into what you love? Get a planner.

Make a plan! Put starts, set deadlines. Make a schedule. Decide what you need to prioritize and do it. Just by writing it down, you now have a better chance of achieving your goal. Will it magically just happen because you wrote it down? I doubt it. Highly. But why not help your odds. 

Okay, so now you’ve made goals. But they are going to be all kinds of overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Next, do some research. If you want to be the next big thing in beatboxing, you need to know what you are getting into. You need to find out which rings you should be in. You need to learn the fundamentals. Just because you love it, doesn’t mean you know a thing about it. And don’t just research beatboxing –  you need to know how to sell yourself, find your niche, and get going. 

So here are three starter books that will help you start your side hustle. Each brings something new to the table. Maybe you need a new plane book, or maybe something to spice up your coffee table. Either way, books are such great resources, and just reading them will help you feel better about yourself. Plus, they are workplace approved, and might even help you with your 9-5. 

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a perfect coming-of-age story about a young boy on his personal quest. There are many times where the world tries to steer him off course, but he has to find his way in the world to do what he knows he is meant to do. 

2. Selling to Vito by Anthony Parinello. If you have a hobby, and you want to make it a business, you’re going to need to sell it. Knowing who to talk to is great, but never having the courage to speak to them means you’re going nowhere fast. This was the first book I read when I started in my sales role, and to this day it is one of the best career books I have read. It’s a quick read and you can find the PDF just by searching for it online.

3. Starting a Business for Dummies. You can buy a used copy for three pounds. So, you really don’t have an excuse. Knowing how to legitimize your ideas into a sound business plan is something you are going to need to know. 

Also, if you need cash to help fund your dreams, sites like Ebay and Depop will help jumpstart the funds. Sell that old bag, get rid of those old shoes. Get cash liquid! No, you won’t wear it again. No, you don’t need it. No, it won’t come back in style. If it does, you will have new funds to purchase one. 

Illustration by Edel Rodriguez

I’m Speaking.

by Kristina Harris

A few weeks ago the US Vice Presidential debate took place in Utah. Not like the location matters an inch since it was all pretty much virtualized. But we all watched from screens around the world and experienced something we all know too well. An uninformed, less qualified person, explaining away nonsense over your rational, evidence based, response.

It was infuriating to watch live as this man thought his smug righteousness came off as anything close to charming. Content aside, women everywhere rolled their eyes in solidarity, knowing all too well the careful waltz Kamala Harris had danced for an hour: the tango of the angry woman, or the polite doormat. To be frank, both options are utterly useless.

Whether you are in a Zoom meeting, in a classroom, on a date, out with friends, women everywhere have been trying to unlearn the social etiquette that allows their points, opinions, objections, and concerns to be indiscriminately steamrolled.

About a month before Kamala Harris told the world she was speaking, I was out with some friends in Camden and the topic of mansplaining came up. The group mainly consisted of women, which is probably why my friend felt so comfortable to chat about how much she loathed this particular social injustice. One of my girlfriends was talking about how annoying it was, and the boy of the group feigned innocence while he mansplained mansplaining. He was clearly uncomfortable and proceeded to get wildly drunk. The girl stood her ground and said, ‘hey Tony, I just said I hate when people do that, why did you do that?’

‘I’m just joking Lizzie! Jesus, can you relax. I’m just joking.’

Well, if you can guess, Lizzie did anything but relax. But why was it on her to relax? Why is it always on her to relax? Tony, you made a poorly timed, poorly executed joke. AND it wasn’t funny or original. This is how it often plays out when someone expresses discomfort. Why is it when you voice what makes you uncomfortable, you have to spend the majority of your time comforting your offender?

‘No, of course you’re not like that.’

‘I didn’t mean you.’

‘I know you didn’t mean to be offensive.’

‘Sorry. No, you go ahead.’

‘I know you’re not a misogynist.’ Well, you know what Ted, I frankly do not know that about you. We just met. But I am saying this because  you’re now upset that you have offended me and somehow it is my responsibility to put you back together.

I know it’s no walk in the park to hear that you made a social blunder. It is exceptionally uncomfortable to meet your imperfections and look them in the eye. It is even more uncomfortable to try to change ingrained habits. But just because it is hard, uncomfortable, and different, doesn’t mean we don’t even try.

In fact, the things that are the hardest for us are the things we need to double our efforts on. For years, men have talked over women. The way of the world is that women speaking up  just isn’t as correct as their self-assured male counterparts. Just because that’s the way it has always been, doesn’t mean that is the way it always has to be. We used to have a bucket as a toilet, until someone said, no, that’s enough of that. This is gross, and there is a better way to do things. And I need to say here and now, this is substantially easier for me to say as a woman who has everything to gain by having safer spaces. I know this onus is on my male counterparts. And I won’t sit here and say it won’t be a challenge. I know it will be uncomfortable. But it is necessary. It is that simple. It is 2020. We aren’t s***ting in buckets, and we aren’t talking over women.

Photo by Alex Edelman/Shuttershock

Business as Utterly Unusual

by Kristina Harris

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve seen more ‘business as usual’ now than I have ever seen in the entirety of my short life. I was walking down the street the other day where substantial construction was taking place. There were metal fences framing the torn apart streets. The gravel was coming apart at the seams, and the fences twisted and turned in the most confusing urban labyrinth anyone has ever had to go through to get to Shake Shack. When I finally escaped the loud drilling of chaos, I was met with a yellow rectangular sign that read ‘business as usual’. At this moment, I stopped my pursuit of cheese fries and just looked at the sign. I turned around and looked at the calamity of construction I had just walked through and thought, they must be f**king kidding me? NOTHING was as usual on that pavement. Nothing is as usual!

Nothing is even close to normal. Usually, when I talk about something being six feet, I am describing an ideal boyfriend or the deep end of a pool, not the distance between me and a friend! And masks? Do not make me laugh. I have never worn this many masks – not even when I was re-enacting the most dramatic scenes of Grey’s Anatomy on wine night. Never in my life have I felt more like a secret agent than when I whip my mask off after having looked  around the corner and not seen anyone. We’re doing happy hours alone over spotty Wi-Fi connections, and videoconferencing dates. And class? I have no idea. I slept through most of April and May because surviving is freaking exhausting.

Regardless, by whatever stroke of luck we are back in Cambridge. We are socially distantly making friends, joining clubs, and meeting girlfriends. We are doing Zoom drinks, and even wearing mascara again. The Zoom life isn’t all bad. I don’t really miss walking home barefoot, heels in hand regretting that I didn’t just wear trainers. They are back in style in a big way anyway.

For some of us, we haven’t been back in Cambridge since March. For some of us, this is the first time ever in the city. To everyone running around unsure which arrow to follow, and which side of the pavement to be on, don’t worry about it. No one knows what is going on. But, welcome back! Seriously.

This welcome is even more all-encompassing than it has ever been in the past because we have all moved into an alternate virtual reality. And no, we didn’t fall into Jumanji. We just slipped into an entirely unpredictable present, and we all found ourselves here, in this lovely town together. Nothing is the way it was, or how I pictured it. Yet, we are still expected to power through. To keep the world turning. To keep learning. To keep working. For me, it hasn’t been easy to stay focused, to stay upbeat and positive. I don’t even want to talk about how staying fit is going. But that’s okay! I am doing my absolute best.  

Which is why I am even more appreciative of spaces like Girl Talk now more than ever. It may just be the smallest corner of the internet, but this small place is just for us to be unapologetically ourselves. For our voices to just take up space. To take up six feet of space for that matter!

So, welcome back, or just welcome! Come to the blog to hear from other lovely beings at Cam who are just trying to make sense of whatever the heck 2020 is. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. And try your very best to enjoy your life. No, things aren’t the way they were, nor are they the way you expected. But that isn’t nothing. Some of the best times, some of the best nights are when you didn’t even expect to go out. When you didn’t make any plans. It might seem incredulously optimistic, maybe even freaking ridiculous. But business isn’t as usual. So, don’t make your life usual. Make it utterly unusual.

Image: wet pavement by Adrian Eckersley

The Toxicity of New Year’s Resolution Culture

By Carlotta Wright

Dry January. Veganuary. Januhairy. Taking out a gym membership. Drinking more water. Achieving inner peace. We’re bombarded with online content about New Year’s resolutions come the new year, but how does this look mid to late January? For me, that’s when the shiny newness of the year wears off and the grey January blues set in. Studies show that a third of resolutions do not make it past the first month.

I wanted to start off this year’s column with this topic, now that we’re a few weeks into the year and one week into term, because I know a lot of people feel the same – it’s hard to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for becoming your best self a few weeks into the 365-day slog.

It’s not uncommon to feel anxiety and pressure. I personally love New Year’s – the feeling of rebirth, of possibility. It’s an artificial excuse to start again, a socially constructed pat on the back that tells you, “It’s a blank slate from now on”. It feels like a cosmic second chance of sorts.

But others hate it, and that’s just as valid. The expectation to look back and count up your successes and failures often feels too much, and is especially daunting for people with bad mental health or going through difficult life circumstances. Why do we do this in the first place? The pressure to make sure this year will be the year, your year, surely can’t be good for anyone.

My New Year’s resolution list this year was incredibly vague. I’ve always been like that – as much as I love the whole energy of the new year, the idea of creating a big list to hold myself accountable to has always filled me anxiety. I just knew vaguely the changes I hoped I’d make to my life this year. Drinking more water was one of them, as well as hopefully getting my writing published somewhere.

But there are pitfalls to this vaguer approach too. I was at the pub with friends a few days into January, describing the gist of my resolutions. It was pointed out to me that what I was essentially describing was inner peace. Full disclosure, I haven’t achieved self-actualisation yet.

I think there’s definitely a gendered aspect to the ‘new year’s resolution culture’ and to the productivity cult of recent years in general. Women especially seem to espouse the resolution of going to the gym, losing weight in the new year, when there’s evolutionary reasons why we gain weight in winter. Social media is already full of scrutiny, and it’s just made worse when you’ve been socialised to pick apart every aspect of your appearance, body and self all your life.

Another side to the discourse on New Year’s resolutions I’ve seen crop up a lot more lately online is ‘manifestation culture’. What is it exactly? For the uninitiated (like me), it’s essentially a more galaxy-brained way of saying “positive thinking”. It’s based on the law of attraction, and holds that our thoughts affect our reality, both consciously and unconsciously. It’s about keeping good vibes around you, mostly, and “the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on.”

But how does this fit in what we know about structures of raced, classed and gendered oppression? This New Year I’ve seen a lot of people talking about ‘manifesting the life you want’ for 2020. But if you have anxiety or depression, you can’t just decide to manifest positive things because your brain chemistry has turned against you. VICE also pointed out that putting such high importance on our thoughts goes totally against professional mental health advice to those with obsessive-compulsive disorder: your thoughts are just thoughts, nothing else.

It all goes back to the cult of productivity, which is simply unhealthy. We are more than we achieve and produce.

That’s often what makes me feel funny about all the Twitter threads and instagram stories around the 31st of December that recount (often month by month!) what that person achieved that year. The fear of comparison adds extra pressure when compiling New Year’s resolution lists, to make them as ambitious as possible, and it can definitely create a foreboding feeling towards the end of the year when we haven’t ticked enough items off our metaphorical, or literal, lists.

Of course, I’m not dismissing all efforts at self-improvement. It can be incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. But when does this urge go too far? In our increasingly fast-paced, commercialised, capital-driven world, you’re valued for what you produce. But not every hobby has to be a side-hustle.

You don’t have to manifest all your goals to be worthy as a person. New year’s resolutions often, whether we want to or not, end up being about targeting a multitude of micro-flaws we see in ourselves or our lives.

Maybe we should ditch the concept of resolutions entirely. Naz Beheshti, an “executive wellness coach” recommends that we focus instead on daily, weekly and monthly “intentions” of things we want to change, rather than one big intimidating list. That job title aside, it seems a better strategy to break down your desired life transformations into more manageable chunks, turning them from “resolutions” into something a bit less pressure-based.

There’s a difference between calmly working to build better habits and obsessing over the need to fix problems we are told we have. Whether its post-holiday weight, drinking more water, doing dry January, give yourself space to fail. And finally, give yourself the gift of indulgence. New years resolution culture often has a very spartan feel about it, and it’s just not good vibes.

Art by Maggie Stephenson

The Politics of Muting on Social Media

Is muting people rude, or is it the only way to healthily manage our social media personas?

In Cambridge’s fast-paced world, it can feel like people’s social media does nothing but sparkle. There’s been a lot written in Cambridge about imposter syndrome, to the extent that I’m almost tired of discussing it now – but it is true. Every day it feels like there’s another post about a play, or a society, or an academic achievement.

Sometimes, you just may not want to see those posts. You could unfollow them, but that would likely lead to highly fraught social situations – everyone takes offence at being unfollowed.

And that, my friends, is where muting comes in.

So what is it? I’m going to focus on Instagram here, not least because it’s interesting to consider what muting means in the context of other recent-ish innovations, like the Close Friends stories. You can choose to unfollow people on Facebook, but, honestly, who uses Facebook anymore? Instagram has taken the blue behemoth’s place as the internet’s diary, and it’s where I personally mute people, and where most people do. You press a button on their profile that makes their feed (their posts, their stories, or both) essentially disappear. No one knows they’ve been muted so, no hard feelings.

Why do we do it? Muting doesn’t happen for negative reasons alone. I’ve muted people because they post too much, or I flaked on a commitment and feel guilty when I see their posts. This is precisely why muting is interesting, psychologically. You can still love a person, but feel distanced from them, and not really want to see their content daily, or their 15 identical shots of dappled light hitting a river (guilty).

Muting people can be temporary, too, and temporary mutes can be motivated by jealousy. While I was still trying to sort out an internship mid-summer, I had to take some time out of seeing grad-scheme stories on people’s instagrams. It takes a while for me to mute someone, but not for everyone. One friend I asked for this column, joked, “I have a one strike rule…one dud post and they’re out”. Muting can be, then, a Mari Kondo-ing of your feed, if you feel your feed doesn’t spark the joy that Mark Zuckerberg intended it to.

It’s the same idea as Close Friends story – a way of exposing your truest and, sometimes, worst self. There you post a private side  to yourself, often of a confessional nature, featuring discussions about your sex life, ugly pictures, updates on mental health. It’s a side to you that you’re not necessarily comfortable exposing. Muting, however, is more often about keeping FOMO at bay, and controlling the amount and the quality of posts that stream our way. I think it’s born out of social media exhaustion – you know that feeling when you’ve scrolled a bit too long and you’re looking for something but you don’t know what? For me, it feels like eating something sweet for too long. It’s too many nice pictures – I get toothache from the saccharine smiles.

Do the different gradations of muting make a difference? What kind of relationship do you have with someone you only mute stories from, and not posts, or vice versa, or both?

Another friend, when asked, said it did make a difference. “Often I just mute stories. The main benefit for me is being able to keep the semblance of being on good terms with people at home (that I’ve drifted from), because actually unfollowing them would be too fractious”. Politeness often dictate that you can’t unfollow someone you have a fraught but civil relationship with, even if you’d rather not see their posts. To unfollow is tantamount to an official friendship end, and not everyone is ready for that.

What’s striking, then, is that these updates clearly go against what social media is allegedly about – keeping up with people. It’s a tacit understanding that we do want more private lives than our follower count may suggest. It’s funny – the internet can be characterised as some entity devoid of humanity, changing social norms, but I find it’s deeply run by unspoken codes of human interaction.

We’re moving towards a social media world where you can increasingly narrow your social circle, in apps built ostensibly for widening it to the entire world. There is a similar rationale behind private instagrams (‘finstas’ or ‘spams’). We’ve gone from anonymous chat rooms in the early 200s, to an emphasis everywhere on “curating” your online experience.

This all may seem microscopic in importance, but these apps do play a significant part in how we interact with each other in daily life, especially “millennials” and the generations below. Their effect on the etiquettes of managing human relationships are important to consider.

To conclude this ode to muting, it really does seem to allow us to manage relationships and our social media personas better in this digital age. Before Instagram and Facebook you could just drift apart and, I don’t know, not follow their MySpace anymore. But today’s internet is a far more constant onslaught of content. With friends from home, we may feel alienated from them, having changed so much at uni. Feeling cut off from people is painful, but we live in complex networks of friendships as the social animals we are. Unfollowing is a far more definite statement, when a silent, pacifying mute does the trick.

I read an article on i-D about close friends stories, that had a similar conclusion. One of the people spoken to said, “It gives me control over my digital self in a space where so much of me is exposed.” Letting go is great, but control (when it comes to social media) might be better.

On Work Habits

I’d thought for a while on what to start off my Girl Talk column with – a deep dive into the Caroline Calloway scandal is always tempting, of course. But, seeing my newsfeeds covered in posts about Mental Health Awareness Day, I felt compelled to write about something which everyone in this university talks about constantly, it seems: work.

It’s a funny word to use, for our constant succession of deadlines, readings and worksheets, and can lead to confusion. If I use it at home, with friends not at university at the moment, they’re puzzled, and say they thought we weren’t allowed at part-time job at Cambridge. Oh no, I reassure them, this isn’t something you can clock out of, at the end of the day- there’s always something else you could be doing, another book to read or more essays to do. Term has just started and I already feel like I’m behind, fielding emails, ramming a summer’s worth of dissertation reading into a few days, all the while nurturing the friendships that keep me going.

Anxiety has been a part of my life at least since the age of 16, and it has always been connected to my academic performance. Receiving an email from a supervisor can leave me terrified to open Hermes, and the way my heart beats right before my history supervisions could probably power the Industrial Revolution. Work and mental health in Cambridge are inextricable, and it’s an even more pernicious issue when counselling and mental health adjustments are underfunded and inaccessible.

Now, a few caveats. I don’t mean for one second to imply it’s a harder life to be in my cushy (but expensive! #cuttherent) Medwards accommodation reading about the early Japanese state than working a full time job for minimum wage. Also, plenty of people here may have a perfectly healthy relationship with their work. In which case: keep on reading and shake your head in despair.

I realise I am by no means the first person to say Cambridge’s approach to academic work is unhealthy. It feels like fairly common knowledge – we’ve all seen people pull constant all nighters, work after a night out, and the atmosphere in college during exam term is, well, very particular.

The supervision system, I think, actually makes this worse – we find ourselves in fairly intense academic relationships with adults who frequently have no tact or sense of emotional intelligence. Stories about supervisors making people cry are a dime a dozen. I also feel that issues of cultural capital come into play here: if you’re used to the supervision system because your school had a similar level of one-to-one attention, you may not be as intimidated by the prospect of asking for an extension, for help, or just saying ‘no’ for one week. This will then be compounded for people of colour and otherwise marginalised students who don’t see themselves in the academics they’re supervised by. As women, we’re socialised also to please others, to be ‘polite’ and ‘nice’ and ask for, rather than state, our needs.

Here’s what I want to say: if you struggle completing all your work and you feel like an imposter – you’re not alone! The feeling of being crept up on by work is felt by everyone around you, I can assure you. I scalded myself quite badly with boiling tea three weeks ago so the start of my time in Cambridge was marked by A&E visits and some reduced mobility – especially frustrating when the things you have to do are far away.

Second, you really, genuinely, do not have to do as much work as they say. A tip for humanities students: not every essay has to be done, so be smart and figure out what topics you can avoid revising. Without meaning to sound like an HSPS student, deadlines are social constructs. I handed in my first essay here 6 hours late, which very much set the tone for my academic career in general. I think I’ve handed in two essays on time in my time here, and it literally does not matter. Prioritise yourself, your way of working and your mental health.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what has really helped me is to think about self-care and leisure as deliberate acts. As Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light and Other Essays “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. It’s a beautiful phrase, as is all of Lorde’s writing. Of course, Lorde was writing as a black lesbian feminist in America, and her work is very much directed at the experience of black women. She expressed in her succinct prose something that’s at the heart of what I want to write about today. Caring for yourself in a world where mental health care has been slashed by cuts, where people wait for weeks for appointments at the University Counselling Service or the Disability Resource Centre, or never receive funding for private counselling their college offered them, and   creating spaces of care and community amongst your friends, in this space, does feel radical.

Basically, a message for everyone: you can take time for yourself. You’re not a productivity machine. Have little rebellions, and hold on to them when Week Five hits.