Being a part of development sector, I often come across people talking about impact that they want to make within certain regions or sectors. These conversations often revolve around awareness, willingness and behavioural change and rightly so, these are some of the steps every changemaker takes in order to bring the ‘good’ change and help the community. I too have been a part of this conversation for over a year now and professionally, all I can think about is how I stretch my knowledge and grow in my work to keep moving in the desired direction.
Gradually, like most of us, my dream career became majority of my life and now the relaxed version of me lives in bits and pieces, stealing some moments before and after my work and study hours. Mind you, my passion is my career and I love most of my work and see value in it, how each day, each work is a learning process, yet, I was losing on something major which I didn’t realise until I had another fall.
Three years ago, I was detected with cervical issue, not so ideal for a 19 year old who was dying to break free and wanted to fly and touch upon every corner of the world, but had to deal with hours of therapy and grams of medicines. While most of the doctors told me to be cautious and not sit for long hours, not carry weight on my back; my physiotherapists had told me how important was it for me to follow my heart, do whatever I liked and put everything I wanted to be above all the mess of life. I travelled happily for almost two years then got stuck in the life loop and prioritised ‘money’, ‘stability’, ‘work’ above my yearnings to be in mountains again. And it happened again and I am back to my saviour doctor who enlightened me once again that back issues don’t only come from physical circumstances but mental and emotional statuses are equally important; and once again I realised that I was going through stress than required and my back shouted at me for not doing what I love the most – travelling.
Coming back to making impact, I am shaping my career to make an impact in a remote region in the Himalayas and probably, in more places in the world but at an individual level, I have failed to make an impact on myself. All the while writers talk about writing a powerful piece, economists want to take away financial misery, consultants keep on suggesting better practices for inclusion and sustenance but personally, are we the change makers to ourselves?
This world is a better place because millions of people have sacrificed their wellness for others. Years and decades are invested in studying patterns and habits of our unique species, yet, we haven’t been able to build a society which puts their individual self first. May be the ones who sacrificed could take a little more care of themselves and we would have had reasons to save oneself. As practice, as moral science, as righteousness, we are told and taught to put someone else or something else above us. Never have I ever been conditioned in a way where having responsibility of keeping myself healthy was inculcated as a habit or my existence alone was felt unique to be celebrated and preserved. Nobody wants to prioritize physical fitness, let alone you talk about mental well-being. How a teenager should behave has rather become a book of instructions than families understanding what an individual mindset be like.
All the time that I had spent in my therapy had me thinking that we talk so much about bringing a change at macro level, someone like me who is just three years over teenager talks about working with governments and international associations and yet it took me two severe back pain outbursts to realise I haven’t been able to look at micro level and collect all those thoughts to me and bring an impact to me! Before fixing anything else, I have to fix me! A body out of order, a mental state outperforming itself will not save the world. If a drop matters to save the ocean, then I matter to save the mankind. No one has to wait till they reach this milestone and then move ahead, it could be simultaneous but if at all there comes a choice between you and anything else, choose you. Only you are going to stay with you for rest of your life so make your investment wisely.
With this, I also want to shout out to all those who have not been taking care of themselves or lost in the loop of making life work. If there is a greater good we are willing to do for others, let’s just save ourselves a little.
Now the question is how do we do it? I can list down all sort of things that I have heard people saying about valuing themselves, giving time to self and family, etc. but what I have learnt in my journey so far is to know when to stop. Career or family or anything important in our lives consumes so much of us that after a while we associate our identity with them. We let our work or family define who we are and all the discomforts that we feel during living up to those expectations seem part and parcel of life. Our ‘social impact’ is more of a characteristic than a cause and effect of our actions.
Years after years people have lived in those discomforts, announcing their misery like an awarded champion. Anything self compromising has become a trait of strong personality. It is more important to us to keep going than to stop or pause or to leave all together. Giving up on something after putting months or years of efforts is almost a sin in our society. Nobody told us that it is okay to deviate, to stop, to fail or to change.
It is okay to deviate, to stop, to fail or to change. Choose the subject you’ve wanted to study even if you don’t make a career there, leave your job if your health demands, change if that’s what your mind has been telling you. It might also be pointed out that people with privileged background can afford to follow self pleasing paths and definitely there are people with comparatively difficult situations but it is not impossible to make this kind of choices. I could write down all the Do’s and Don’t’s but I won’t since I too haven’t lived up to myself a lot but as of today, life has taught me two golden rules:
- Know when to stop
- Choose yourself, always