I love you deeply, and so I have something to say: It doesn’t need to be this way.
Thank you for all your hard work and sacrifice. Because of you, we have won countless fights, made enumerable advances, and are further along on this fervent path to justice.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and though I’m not normally one to celebrate, I want to extend a gift to you (and no, it’s not a fuzzy teddy bear holding a heart. It’s even better).
My gift to you, this February 14th, is the permission to put yourself first.
Now the truth is, I once thought that I had to be exactly like you, working what felt like ALL THE TIME and disconnecting from myself just to get through the day. But as it turns out, I feel most aligned when I’m operating in a state of balance. I feel whole when my self-care is a priority. I love the world by loving myself first.
It’s not your fault. In fact, I don’t blame you at all. We SERIOUSLY need to have some conversations in this movement about organizational culture, fundraising requirements, and leadership training.
But in the meantime, do what YOU need to do:
1) It’s ok to say ‘no’ to things. Like, it’s really ok. The Earth won’t stop turning, and there will always be someone else who is right for the gig. Boundaries are wonderfully healthy things.
2) Putting your oxygen mask on first means you love other people more, not less. We are all more happy when you show up as the best form of yourself. Do what you need to do to be able to act from that place.
3) Working insanely long hours ALL THE TIME is not aligned with your social change values. Yes, sometimes it is very necessary. But those moments should be the exception, not the rule, and it’s high-time we put more distributive leadership practices into operation.
4) And, lastly, remember that the younger folks in the room are learning from you. Want the next cycle of awesome social change leaders to be more grounded than you are? Yup, then practice what you preach.
Believe me, this is all coming from a deep place of love for you, and for all of us fighting this good fight together. I honor your commitment and passion, so let’s all work hand in hand to reshape our non-profit cultures. I’m ready to co-design, are you?
With love and abundance,
When you do social change work professionally, it tends to get personal, fast. We all come to this work with stories from our past and communities, the reasons we feel called to fight for justice.
Many of those experiences are felt very deeply, quickly creating bonds between us and the people we work with every day. I have so many beautiful and enduring friendships that have been born out of being co-workers first.
It’s also true, that this closeness can breed a difficult dynamic where boundaries are crossed, and staffers are left feeling exposed and raw without much space or separation between work-life and personal life.
So, let’s talk about boundaries.
Boundaries are difficult to set, and even harder to maintain. They require inner knowing, commitment, and a bit of tough love towards others. But, when structured well, boundaries can actually make us feel more secure, lighter, and free us up from other peoples’ stuff.
I used to have a boss that disguised her nosey nature as “getting to know you” leadership. It took me months of feeling uncomfortable, and slightly ashamed, after our conversations to realize that her supposed leadership style was, in fact, just straight up gossipy. As an introvert, I’m prone to this feeling of overexposure. But, for anyone, crossed boundaries are a sign that we need to raise our defense shields.
I find that boundaries get especially murky when issues of power and privilege are at play. If you’re already marginalized at work, it’s a much bigger challenge to stand up for your own needs.
In need of some boundary setting with your co-workers? Try out these tips.
As we head into winter, traditionally a period of stable rest, I find my life looking a little different than usual.
There are a few things right now that are a bit unsettled—balls that have been tossed in the air but have yet to land. There are multiple moving pieces, each affecting the next, most of which are out of my control.
This state of being is not, exactly, my comfort zone.
We humans love to try to map and chart the future.
But, it’s been the moments when I’ve allowed myself to free-fall and confronted my fears, when transformation has truly taken hold.
So, it is in these times of change that I’m once again presented with an opportunity to sit in the unknown, and find the expansiveness and freedom that comes along with it.
It’s a learning curve for me, but I will share what I’ve gathered so far, and am continuously trying to put into practice:
Guest Post by Gregory A. Cendana
Cendana is the first openly gay and youngest-ever Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) of the AFL-CIO, and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement.
I’m known by many for having a Can’t Stop! Won’t Stop! kind of lifestyle.
And it’s true.
I’ve found a way to balance all the important things in my life: family, friends, work, dance, local DC politics and the list goes on.
Believe it or not, there is no secret potion or pill to my seemingly endless energy. It lies in the practices that I’ve developed for personal sustainability and the amount of self-love I have and continue to prioritize.
People, especially students and young professionals, are sometimes made to believe the only way you’ll be successful is if you work non-stop, and that pushing one self toward burnout is part of a process of “paying your dues” before you can ascend into leadership.
This was definitely how I felt, especially when I moved to Washington, D.C. more than 5 years ago. I found myself waking up early, staying up late, and constantly on the grind. During meals—if I even ate them—and when I was with family or friends, I’d be on my phone answering emails or continually adding to my never-ending list of things to do. There was always someone to respond to or something urgent that needed to be addressed (or it seemed that way, anyway).
I’ve been told before that organizing, fighting for social change and movement-building should be treated like a marathon, not a sprint. My life experiences have reminded me over and over that this is true.
Personal sustainability is the best thing you can do for yourself and our collective quest for social justice. I believe success should not be calculated by how long or much you work but rather by how effective you are in the goals you set for yourself.
You may be asking, “how did you do it Gregory?”
Here are some of the things I did that helped me find balance in my life:
It’s officially mid-August, and my days are feeling very slow. As some of you know, my partner, our dog-child, and I have moved part-time to the beautiful Hudson Valley, about 1 1/2 hours outside of NYC. It’s been a stunning summer full of sunsets, hiking, and impromptu lake swims.
I’m also superbly lucky to have a flexible schedule, which has allowed me to stay up here for the last few weeks of August. I’m feeling very slow and very hazy, and I’m loving it.
Over the last few months, I’ve had a lot of conversations about rest. Usually, it’s the wintertime that we all associate with slowing down, hibernating, and recuperating before the rebirth of Spring sets in. But, I feel very compelled to bring this same energy to the summer, and throw out some of the nagging guilt that seems to creep in every time I start taking it easy.
Clients and friends alike have been finding themselves in a similar inner war: Fighting between their natural urge to rest, and their inner critic ready to press play on their broken “Get It Done Now” record.
Therefore, I have one easy piece of advice for these last few weeks of summer: Be Gentle.
If it’s not absolutely urgent, or you’re not on a strict deadline, DON’T DO IT. Let your gut be your guide and follow your natural instincts. Tired? Take a nap. Work bringing you down? Take a slow walk around the block during lunch. Cook yourself gloriously colorful meals. Spend a full hour on the phone with your best friend. Read a book quietly by yourself with some iced tea.
Life can be, and sometimes should be, just that simple.
The beginning of September will surely bring new adventures and overbooked schedules, so please take this time to just…be. Nurse your spirit, cradle your soul, and be gentle.
Wishing you all a fabulously unproductive rest of the month.
Like many people who just found out about George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, I’m feeling a flood of emotions. Sadness, rage, disbelief with a depressing side of not surprised (I gave up on our system long-ago). More than anything, like all of you activist souls, I feel called to action. Shouting from the rooftops, rallying in Union Square (#HoodiesUp), primal screams in the woods. My energy needs to move. Anger needs to flow from my heart into the world.
When you’re a sensitive soul who views the world in terms of justice and injustice, cases like Trayvon Martin (or insert Troy Davis, Oscar Grant, Malala Yousafzai, and the list goes on…and on…and on) create a groundswell of intense tears, what feels like physical pain and nausea, and either a sensation of your throat closing up, or the need to scream without abandon.