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I must have been eight years old when I first felt it – a yearning to heal the world. I would escape the clutches of my familial reality only to confront the tribulations of a world in pain. I could feel the urgency in my bones. I ached when the world ached; I cried when the world cried. This connection to humanity was fervent, instinctual.
With it came another, even stronger sentiment: hope, an authentic belief that a brighter world was possible. Beauty was abundant, and I saw it everywhere. In the leaves as they swayed from their branches, in the innocent laughter of youth, and the daily interactions of kin. I often wondered if others saw what I saw – if they were so overwhelmed with the brilliance in our collective potential that they too struggled to sleep. Growing up, most called this hopeful perspective naivety, but the feeling never left me.
By the time I entered college, my passion for people had only ripened. Service was no longer a hobby; it was a duty. I quickly pushed against the boundaries of my leadership, engaging actively with equitable and philanthropic causes. "Social entrepreneur" was a term I rapidly embraced. I submitted entirely to these causes because I felt the world deserved nothing less.
However, this fight came at a cost. I did a poor job of caring for myself, and in turn, my health suffered. Much like my mother in years past, I was often sick, always depleted, and continually stressed out. By college, I had carried depression for nearly a decade. This new fervor for serving humanity – though fulfilling – had done little but escalate the painful knots it produced in my stomach. I developed these stubborn habits in my youth. I moved 100 miles an hour because I often considered myself happiest when I was busy. Activity was a welcomed distraction from the insecurities I dealt with daily. Preoccupying myself, particularly with something hopeful, allowed me the opportunity to delay my wellbeing further. I was my last priority.
I viewed any time away from my passions as time wasted. In many ways, I felt that I had no choice but to sacrifice what few hours I had on this planet to serve the lives of those who dwelled in it. But the truth of it is I often moved so quickly that I forgot to appreciate the journey. I pushed myself so hard for others that no energy or will remained to nurture myself.
What good is our work for others when we haven't yet learned to care for ourselves? It's a cliché sentiment, yes. Then again, these clichés exist for a reason. Generation after generation, people just like us have come to the same conclusions – they've learned something about themselves that rings true across the entirety of the human experience. Among the many is the comprehension that we are not our best selves when we don't allow ourselves the breaks to breathe, to recharge and to observe it all from a different perspective.
At Plenty, many of us have learned these lessons the hard way. We love our work. We care desperately about unlocking the greatest possible good for the world, and we put our whole selves into this venture. But it comes at a cost, and we’ve learned – in time – to prioritize the wellbeing and stability of each person, and our collective team. We've learned that our minds, our bodies, and our hearts need their rest. In this way, taking rest is not only a break but also an investment. We are the product of our energy. When energy is weak, so is output.
Even now, I have to remind myself that I can’t do it all. I have to remind myself that I’m deserving of rest, if only a single, patient breath. We don’t often recognize how loud it’s been until we’re immersed in silence. In the midst of tumult, my heart yearns for the remembrance of hope. When I give my heart and mind a chance to breathe, in whatever capacity, hope always shows its face. When the world around me slows down, I begin to see beauty in the details once more. The leaves again look brighter, the children’s laughter grows stronger, and my kinship with humanity is reaffirmed.
Take a breath today, and remember that you are human. Give yourself the break you richly deserve, the break our world and work demands. Above all else, take some time to appreciate where you are and all that you’ve done. Lest you forget, the world is better because you are here.
In the humble words of William Wordsworth, “Rest and be thankful.”