“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
After five difficult, transformative, and beautiful years I am going on Sabbatical. I will be away from July 31st to September 11th.
Burnout has become a widely recognized phenomenon in non-profit culture. Yet, we still throw the word around and often miss the weight of what it really means. It is evident, and yet we keep going.
Rest has the power to prevent burnout, rest gives us room to breathe, heal, get in touch with the parts of us that hold our purpose. The burnout people face, specifically in non-profits, is real, the weight and expectations QTBIPOC leadership experience are monumental – the stakes are higher. Proximity to failure is scrutinized. It is simply not acceptable.
The necessity to perform in a country that does not value our humanity is exhausting. I am tired, I am on the brink of burn out, and despite what society says we do and don’t deserve, I am going on sabbatical to rest. It is essential for my well-being that I have some space from the constant need to advocate against the injustice my loved ones and I face daily. Space makes room for rest.
I was hired at CPC as a 23-year-old Co-Executive Director in October of 2018. I know what you’re thinking, yes! I was YOUNG! I had just been hired to serve an organization with more than two decades of existence and powerful impact. The pressure to now stand in the shoes of the amazing people that had preceded me. So much learning has happened since then and much of it through the opportunity to serve in this role.
2019 was a year to learn about CPC. After 2019 we learned what we did well and recognized what we needed to improve. By 2020, we were ready to start planning the future of CPC. Our plans, like the world, collapsed.
Suddenly the work that needed attention was amplified exponentially. On top of the isms, we are constantly fighting against, now we were in the throes of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and white supremacy. The communities we work with and are a part of, were and continue to be disproportionately affected by the cascading injustices that block the opportunities for people to thrive and live out their purpose, live with ease, and rest. It is the constant need to fight, the not being able to deal with death and grief, the financial and political instability we are constantly facing, the list goes on, that causes chronic trauma. Still, we organize and work for the justice, liberation and humanity of our people and our loved ones, while we and our loved ones continue to experience direct harm and injustice.
In the face of these complex realities, CPC delivered even through a big transition, a world wide transition. We pivoted, moving from a predominantly part-time staff to being able to hire, pay, and lead an
organization with full time staff. During that period, I felt the weight of the organization’s success and the financial well-being of the staff on my shoulders.
It is rare and unique for grassroots organizations to prioritize rest and allow for employees to catch up in moments of transition. Philanthropy quite frankly does not allow it. We are expected to continuously deliver regardless of what is going on internally or externally, and that is problematic. I love my job. I love that I can work with my colleagues to create programs that advocate for and support our community. It has been remarkable to witness the ways we shift, adapt and proceed at CPC. It all comes with a price. To do the incredible work that we do requires funding and support, and traditional philanthropy is often draining and disheartening. It is exhausting to feel as if we must constantly perform, deliver, prove ourselves, and beg for support while our communities and our beings are under attack by federal, state, and local policies. In a city that talks about its desire for equity, the support we provide BIPOC executive leadership is minimal. And yet, through all of this, I emphasize failure is not an option. If you are in philanthropic positions, or even a position of wealth and privilege, I want this to encourage you to think about how you can use your resources and the power you hold to walk alongside us and not above us.
“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, We can walk together.”- Lilla Watson
I hope that by recognizing the importance of rest and the prevalence of burnout, others in non-profit organizations can see the possibility to create healthier and more sustainable work environments. As non-profits it is essential we recognize sustainability beyond financial resources and prioritize the health of our people, our staff. I ask you to challenge normative beliefs, status-quo structures, and make rest a priority. Question the policy(ies) that serve a system and not its people because I know that together we can foster a culture that values and honors the humanity of us all.
So, 2023 is the year I take a step back – for perspective, for rest, for some space from being in the thick of it for 5 years. I am grateful to CPC for what it has allowed me to do and accomplish, and for understanding the importance of rest through its sabbatical policy. With CPC fully staffed, I can rest and return with energy to continue to do my life’s passion.
I walk with purpose towards a collective liberatory world and therefore must acknowledge my own needs.