I’m Learning

I’m Not Rushing to Get to Work on Time Anymore

If it’s not about me and my peace of mind, it can wait

My morning routine is the same almost every day. I typically wake every morning between 6 and 7 a.m. I don’t use an alarm clock, preferring to let myself rise naturally with the sun. I stretch. Sit up. Take a sip of water. Say a little prayer of gratitude. Get out of bed and open the curtains to let the sunshine in.

And then… I panic. The countdown has begun.

Starting from the moment I open my eyes, I have T-minus 2.5 hours before I need to start work. That’s 2.5 hours to become fully awake, do some yoga, walk around my neighborhood, meditate and pray, journal about my overanxious thoughts, take a shower, dress, clean up my place, make me some breakfast (cue Jill Scott) — all the things I want and need to do to get energized and feel like a human before I have to sit my ass down to start my work for the day.

Our capitalistic culture has conditioned me to value the things that make me money over the things that make me, well, myself.

Of course, it is almost impossible to get all this done within that window of time. And knowing that leads me to feel as though I’ve already failed before I’ve even been conscious for five full minutes. So I rush. I skip essential parts of my morning routine like exercise, praying, and even sometimes showering. And no matter how much I rush or sacrifice, I can’t escape the overwhelming feelings of guilt and anxiety. Either I’m not giving enough time to the responsibilities that pay me, or I’m not giving enough time to the daily habits that keep me healthy and sane.

And I know I’m not alone in this feeling. Black women especially struggle with prioritizing ourselves. Our responsibilities to others win out over our responsibilities to ourselves.

Putting yourself first can feel like deliberately putting other things last. It can feel like you’re telling the people and career and responsibilities in your life that you don’t care about them. It’s like telling the world that you have the nerve to think you’re more important than anything else that’s going on.

But here’s the thing, you are important.

As Toni Morrison once said, “you are your best thing.” If you’re not good, nothing is good. And it’s true! When I just jump out of bed and go straight to my desk, I’m irritable and sloppy, and I actually end up getting less done than I would have if I had just taken some time to make myself some breakfast and go for a walk to clear my head before starting the day.

And to be fair, no one at my job clocks me or asks where I am at precisely 9:31 a.m. I actually have a pretty flexible work structure. But fears that I am not productive enough are embedded deep within my psyche. Our capitalistic culture has conditioned me to value the things that make me money over the things that make me, well, myself.

My self must come first. It’s not an option. It’s a priority.

Sure, I guess I can wake up earlier or save some things on my to-do list until later in the day. But this is not an issue of time management for me. It’s an issue of not seeing myself as a priority, as worthy of my own time and attention.

My priorities have been out of whack way too long. So I’m not rushing anymore.

I’m learning to put my needs first, to take my time. I’m learning that things are not always as urgent as I believe them to be. The world will not end if I miss my own self-imposed deadline.

And I’m learning not to be so hard on myself when I don’t get things done with the speed that I think I should. Just because I don’t get everything done in a day doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything done at all. I’m a responsible person. If something doesn’t get done today, I promise it will get done tomorrow. But it will get done after I do my exercises, clean my body, eat some breakfast and just exist like a normal person and not a cog in the corporate machine.

I know it’s a privilege to even be in a position to prioritize my own needs over the need to show up on time and get my bills paid. It’s a privilege that is very new to me. I, like many women reading this, am so used to working hard. But I want to get used to putting that same level of effort into taking care of myself. I want to start seeing my time and my health as just as important as my check. It’s going to take some practice.

Now in the mornings, after I sip, pray, and open my curtains, I’ve begun repeating the mantra “My self must come first.” I say this to myself when the countdown inevitably begins again, when I feel compelled to rush through my day, when I start to get anxious that I’m spending too much time doing the things I want to do.

My self must come first. It’s not an option. It’s a priority.

Senior Platform Editor @ZORAmag | book lover | fangirl | Black woman | Terp

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