This past Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day which means that social justice, in the context of 2014, was top of mind. After the #BlackLivesMatter OccupyLAPD action transitioned into a new strategic phase this month following the arrest of two organizers and the dismantling of their site, I have largely been out of the loop.
As much as I try to stay on top of the news and am responsive to all calls for solidarity action/support, I am more and more realizing the actual physical and mental exhaustion I was left with post-2014. Not only was I in an endless loop of necessary conversation around the tragedies/subsequent uprisings in Ferguson, Long Island, and our own Los Angeles, but also an unusually heavy amount of Asian American identity dissection, my accidental foray into call-out Twitter, and the slow re-evaluation of whose opinions I trust off the rack and whose I need to filter more. All this on top of a particularly charged/challenging personal life. And organizing a seven month art space. And working a full time job.
It was a lot.
With 2015's arrival my schedule has been momentarily clear. My weekends are not loaded with unnecessary weight, and for the first time in four years I am taking time to myself.
I would like to upfront acknowledge that taking time to myself is a privilege. Many folks who are building community are organizing for their lives and the lives of their families. Self care isn't always within reach.
So with that in mind, as we went into the Martin Luther King Jr. long weekend, I wasn't sure what I "should" be doing. There was action to be taken. There were conversations to be had. I had collected money to feed organizers and though it had been spent, donors wanted to be organized into actions.
But nothing came. I got no messages, no texts asking for help. And so I allowed (really, somewhat forced) myself to take time away from movement building for the first time in years.
It was nice. I am not a brunch person, but I went to Larchmont Bungalow on Saturday morning and had a quinoa bowl with a friend. That night I got dinner at my family-favorite Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop with a friend then headed to Chinatown to meet up with friends at Grand Star Jazz Club. I caught up with my "little sister" the next morning at Go Get 'Em Tiger over cold brew and baked kabocha toast then showed a friend I hadn't seen in 11 years around KTown.
And even though I was taking time to myself, every conversation and interaction somehow came back to community building. And every conversation and interaction I left feeling refreshed.
I forget, sometimes, that the internet was not always a thing. I forget that these conversations and moments of knowledge production were designed for person-to-person, IRL interaction rather than disjointed 140-character tweets or easily-misread Facebook posts.
There was an article being passed around when I was in college about my generation's supposed inability to read physical cues. The premise of the article (there is no good "quotable" slice) revolves around the idea that our interaction is limited internet and mobile communication, meaning that we are only used to the written word. This article draws the conclusion that we therefore can't read nonverbal cues.
I can't disagree more. This weekend was a reminder that in-person conversation will always remain key. As social justice advancement becomes less of a self-aware education and more of a show-and-tell obligation amongst our generation, I am working to remind myself that no matter how much online discussion or public shunning occurs, in the end cutting a few hours out of my day of meetings to grab coffee can sometimes be the most productive use of time, emotionally and organizationally.
I think I will keep cutting time out for these moments of retreat from the daily thought pieces and over-analytical discussion. There will always be work to do, and stepping back for moments at the time is not always a bad thing.