When my mother died prematurely from preventable causes in 2009, I made a pact with myself that I would live a fulfilled and healthy lifestyle no matter what. My wellness journey included transitioning my diet to primarily plant based foods, incorporating regular enjoyable exercise into my lifestyle and learning a plethora of alternative healing modalities.
I studied sound and music healing, yoga, herbalism and even traveled to Hawaii to learn an ancient healing system called the Lomi Lomi. I had been immersed in creative wellness practices for over ten years when I became an Assistant Principal of a large high school in Brooklyn, New York so I never thought that I could become subject to the disillusionment, stress and burn out like others in the role before me. I was the go-to person in the organization when fun, mindfulness, or creativity was needed to make our programs more engaging but when I looked at my own life, I had nearly eliminated all of the creatively affirming spaces I used to participate in. There was no fun or vibrance and meditation had become as obligatory as ordering lunch (where I used to cook). I had also become a voice of equity, inclusion and balance in our organization but no longer participated in the justice and organizing communities that fed me in that mission because I told myself I needed to focus on work. It all made perfect sense in my mind but when my colleagues started to deal with major health issues, I was brought back to that place in 2009 when I had to take a hard look at my life and assess if it was what I truly wanted it to be.
I had gained weight and was tired all the time but had trouble sleeping. Most concerning, I was now anxious when awake in a way that made my chest hurt. What I needed was a voice of dissent before things got too far, something or someone to say yes you are living a very stable lifestyle, making more money than you ever have but are you really okay?
When my body started showing signs of breakdown, I took myself to a therapist who supported me in carving the path back to myself. Through our sessions, I was able to articulate how often my self-sacrificial behavior in the name of organizational wellness and justice was a detriment to myself and that I was no good to anyone if I was not good with myself. Between therapy, deepening my spiritual walk and the simplest of creative practices, I was able to rebalance my lifestyle in such a way that I could walk into work with a spring in my step again!
I was transparent with my fellow school leaders about what was not working and the changes I was making as well as those we could make as an organization to take some of the pressure off our teams. That’s when something amazing happened, colleagues and co-workers around me started prioritizing their own health, wellness and self care practices for themselves and families in a way that began making waves in our whole school community. I was also able to renegotiate the salary of myself and a colleague for a 20% increase once I was able to take a moment to acknowledge the value I was bringing to the organization! The school had begun an ascent to a new level of thriving and I know that my renewed attentiveness to myself and then my work had something to do with it.
About a year later, I got the call to move onto a more global platform of creative wellness programming and I transitioned out of my work public education but the impact I was able to make on my school and community still resonates further than I could have imagined at the time. I just knew that I had to take a stand for myself without worrying how it may look to others and thankfully that shift was part of a larger, and I believe divine plan.
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