How can we produce a society where we can take care of each other?
Well, that’s certainly difficult here in the United States, the only major industrialized country without any paid annual leave or time off. Whether or not we want to blame it on the legacy of the protestant work ethic, our inability as a society to take time to rest can’t be good. Just check out how we compare to some of our counterparts, according to a 2007 Harvard Law School report.
For us working dedicating our life to social justice work, taking time off is one hell of a process to find ways to take care of ourselves and each other. I’d like to also point out that for me, it is so much easier to think about how society creates barriers for us to properly take care of ourselves, than to actually take the time to de-stress and relax.
On the real…
I am in a point of my life where I do not know how to de-stress. As I have shared before, taking on a new leadership position at LAANE, my home for close to five years, has presented both exciting opportunities, but a major personal challenge as it comes down to making sure I can physically and mentally do this work for life. Even as I write that, I often wonder whether the professionalization of social justice work had led to us adapting to the more grueling aspects of the corporate world–cut throat competition, long hours, obsessing over perfection, etc. I live, drink, eat, and even sleep work because the stakes are high.
The Construction Careers Project, which I have been a part of since day one at LAANE, has embarked on two major efforts. First,the implementation and enforcement phase of Construction Careers Policies that have been approved in LA County, a effort to increase standards in the construction industry and increase opportunities for African-Americans in the industry. Second, launching a new campaign for the passage of SB 1 (Steinberg), a bill to bring back tax increment finance to encourage development along transit corridors and bring back a source of funding for the construction of affordable housing, a result of the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in 2011. In a nutshell, the work never stops. And there’s a price to pay (on a personal level) for making sure that we meet the twin goals of advocating for more sustainable infrastructure investment and better jobs for communities of color–seeing my family less often.
On Saturdays, you can find my mom at Mi Querido Pulgarcito, her favorite Salvadoran restaurant, eating pupusas and drinking lots of coffee with my aunt and other friends from the motherland. When things weren’t as busy, you would find me cracking jokes with her and the rest of the girls. On Sundays, after a long morning hike at Griffith Park with Luna, my very enthusiastic canine companion, I would head over and spend afternoon at my parents’ house, where all the kids would get together to cook, laugh, and take naps in between. My family is incredibly important to me and not being able to see them, especially my nieces and nephews, on a regular basis, has felt like there is a hole in my heart.
This week, after learning that I had to do a whirlwind trip to Sacramento to SB1 advocacy, I decided to spend some time with my parents. What was supposed to be a brief nap before catching a 6 am flight, turned into two days of catching up with family. I caught up with my dad, the other workaholic in the family, watched my nieces do their homework and paint, and woke up in the mornings to sit in the kitchen and have coffee with my mom, the early bird and head of the clan. I had not been able to do that since the holiday break, and I realized that my family gives me the fuel and inspiration I need to keep going. After all, my family has taught me that taking care of each other is the fundamental value of living a fulfilling life. And talking to my 6-year old niece Kami about art and music was such a breath of fresh air. This weekend is the first in months where I haven’t had to work, and it’s given me the opportunity to reflect on how I need my family in my life to de-stress. And tomorrow, Sunday, I might actually try to get back into my old routine.