Oxygen Mask

The 20s are all about showing up as the best you possible. You know when you're boarding for a flight and the flight attendants give you that lickety split demonstration regarding all the safety gear the aircraft is outfitted with and they say to put on your oxygen mask first before helping anyone else. It's a safety practice but also a metaphor for life. You have to help yourself before you can help others. We struggle and find difficulty in getting the time to do so. What's the alternative? Suffocating and panicking on our way to not-so certain death (#morbid). This flight could go down, don your personal oxygen mask.

One of the many things I struggle with is knowing when to step back and when to let things go. The entire concept of personal time has escaped me for quite some time. I'm like one of those dangerously overworked airplane pilots who were tasked with completing trips on little to no sleep. Yeah, they're capable of doing it, but should they? After marathon trips across tumultuous skies, jet setting across the country, and living every kids dream, to fly, I can only imagine how tired you end up being. What happens when your job, people around you, and the life you lead know that you need time to get back on your game, but never actually give you any? It's a frustrating thing. My university and so many of its community members are strong promoters of this concept of self-care and yet expect people to move mountains on a daily basis. Fine, I can be your work miracles on the regular but that shouldn't have to be the case. Some people advocate for personal time and recharging while others say so in theory but in practice make you feel some type of way when you actually take their advice and want to do you. I feel like Hans Solo trapped in carbonite, perfectly pristine and live, but going nowhere at the same time. Give me a minute. Let me just be. At the same time I can acknowledge that some of those expectations of always being able to get up and go like I'm a college aged Oliver Queen/Green Arrow or something are put there by myself. If I'm on a plane going down, I'm the guy holding his breath helping everyone else get their oxygen masks on before holding on past my own limits before indulging in being selfish and saving myself. Great, it's endearing to be selfless but at the same time do you lose yourself in the process if you give every part of you? At the end of the day, who's left for you to actually be? I'm still trying to figure it out, but that whole oxygen mask metaphor really resonated with me. Sometimes you have to care about yourself. Sometimes you have to preserved your health and sanity. Sometimes your needs actually matter and are pressing. The reality is you'll fly the most level plane of your life when you're well rested, wholly present and fully appreciated so take the time to take pit stops, fuel up, and enjoy the exclusive members club. You can be a giver and still reserve some of yourself for just that, yourself. Oxygen masks on.

Life has an ironic way of aligning alarmingly well with some of the things that you're going through. The past few days have been a real headspace shaker in all senses of the phrase. I feel like I just need to take a break and just breath the intoxicatingly refreshing fumes of an oxygen mask. Monday and Tuesday were final preparation days for SESP as the staff and I learned about supporting students with various presentations from different offices. All the information was so empowering and knowing that I may be the one to connect students with those great resources was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Tuesday night came and with it a curve ball that I totally did not see coming. I'm talking like post-apocalyptic genre type of stuff with the passing of tropical storm Arthur rolling through Burlington and some of its surrounding areas (Smallville imagery anyone?). The night was darker than I'd ever seen here and the rain just came rushing in at every opening it could find. Wet floors, soaked clothing, and dripping everything else made us look like Lindsay Lohan in that unsightly luck movie with Chris Pine (pre-fame Princess Diaries 2 & Star Trek days). The power went out and it was absolutely terrifying. All the doors swung closed and I thought I was completely alone. If ever I needed a calming gas mask It was like the morbidly gruesome Final Destination series come to life as people came out of the woodwork and the expectation of a killer to make an appearance at any point in time. I ventured to my apartment to retrieve some craft supplies and the entire city was pitch black and creepily silent. It was a memorable night to say the least and I fell asleep to howling winds and lightly drizzling rainfall.

When you're able to breathe deep that fresh, crisp, clean air that makes you just feel good, it's one of my favorite things about life. After it's rained and everything is drying out, and the air just feels recently washed like a Snuggle commercial (minus the scary talking teddy bear), the world just seemed to be renewed. Wednesday was just day, the start of something new. The students who would be participating in the SESP program (I know, double use of a word but it's whatever) began to arrive and I worked on a bomb ass social justice bulletin board. The morning flew by and soon we had the welcome BBQ where familiar faces and new ones alike interacted. The afternoon meant some paperwork and walking around campus before dinner happened along with our community meeting where connections were starting to be formed. Night fell and I was oh so very tired but still engaging even past my limits of pep. Thursday came and that meant a visit to hear about the things available from student health services, a campus tour for the students' worksites, before scheduling and a bookstore pass through. We loaded up in vans and made the adventure out to Williston for a Wal-Mart romp (cue every wally world stereotype ever). I connected with one of the students in my group, Warrick, when we realized we both were fluent in our Ghanaian native language of Twi. What a gift it is to be able to use language and have someone understand, especially the intricacies of the culture it belongs to. Dinner came and afterwards I decided to visit my apartment to pass out like nobody's business. Next up was tennis with my current rival, fraternity brother/advisor, Lane. We played two sets, both of which I lost, with some intense shuts and a serious effort being put up by the both of us. That entire two hour period where the only thing that mattered was my racquet connecting with the ball and beating him was my oxygen mask. I wasn't thinking of anything or anyone else but myself, my breathing, my actions, and my potential to next moves. It's always a pleasure seeing that one and particularly in the context of a competitive sport which is a side of me that few people ever get to see (he's even more fun than usual me). I received a disgusting amount of texts, calls, tweets, and messages of people, all at once, it seems wondering where I was and what I was doing. The world just had to remind me that you can't deep for too long lest you check out completely. Back to the residence hall to shower and hang out with some of the students. I was doing my best to connect and show up in the best way possible while striving to notice the dynamics of how I represent myself. I'm a work in progress but I'm willing to pull down my oxygen mask and breathe when I feel the need to, and sometimes just because I can.

My blog post question for the day is ... how do you take care of yourself? Me, I can spend hours on end in my room just writing this blog (part of my self-care), watching something on Netflix, or just taking a nap.


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