As one of the chosen 1,000 Black people of the world to attend UC Berkeley at any given time, I can proudly say that I am a blessing and gift to this campus for existing. I wasn’t always aware of my #BlackWomxnMagic, though; the universe has allowed many mentors and experiences (read: trials and tribulations) into my life to cultivate a sense of radical self-love that has given me the fortitude and resilience to make it to my last year at UC Berkeley. That being said, I wanted to share my story to assist my fellow marginalized brothers, sisters and siblings that are in the midst of their self-care journeys.
To keep it real: “self-care” on this campus is an overused buzzword constantly conflated with the phrase “work hard, play hard.” For example, after a brutal finals week, maybe you decide to do something grandiose, such as study abroad somewhere. This is a commonly “accepted” notion of self-care that will not face scrutiny from others. You adhered to the standards of toxic workaholic syndrome, drunk on self-sacrifice, in pursuit of the highest GPA, the most competitive internship and baddest-ass resume. You are “deserving” of your extravagant engagement with “self-care” because you indentured yourself into the normalization of suffering that validates that you are not a waste of space on campus. While this may work for some students, I am convinced that this binary is not for everyone, and especially not for structurally marginalized students (such as myself).
Ever since my freshman year I have had to work two jobs (yes, even with financial aid) in order to support myself and my family whilst taking a full load of classes; aligning myself to the UC Berkeley student standards mentioned above. Forget self-care, I was self-sacrificing to survive, and I was okay with that because I needed to count my blessings that I even got to come here as a low-income, first-generation college student with the chance to lift myself out of poverty post graduation.
In 2014 that dream was shattered. The beginnings of the #blacklivesmatter movement awakened me to the reality that the promises of the UC Berkeley degree does not exempt me from the possibility of death by virtue of being a Black woman in AmeriKKKa. Therefore, it is not surprising that toward the end of my junior year I had passed one of the many UC Berkeley student rites of passage: having my first mental breakdown.
I thank the forces of the universe that embraced me with compassion and empathy during my lowest point for I received a great revelation: I do not deserve the conditions of existence that I was given as a poor Black (and now mentally disabled) womxn. Surviving is no longer enough for me to live well. I am worthy and deserving of more support to get through my college career (and beyond) despite these burdens. These thoughts stayed in my heart and became the psychological activation energy I needed to finally pursue a path of healing and restoration as I work towards my internal liberation from these toxic UC Berkeley ideologies.
My first act of radical self-care that I took on was sleeping regularly. Truly, the first few weeks after resolving to do it were so hard. Days would end so much quicker and many times I could not finish assignments or skipped readings. At first I felt a deep sense of shame that I had chosen sleep over my GPA, but then I realized that I was so much more calm and aware in my day-to-day engagements — I felt alive.
This led to another important act of self-love: Learning how to be radically vulnerable and ask for help. Saving face is an essential posture of the UC Berkeley student that no longer served me in my self-care journey. Being vocal about legitimizing my struggles not only got me the resources/accommodations I needed, but also expanded my ride-or-die network of folks who I could trust my life with.
As I was no longer adhering to the destructive UC Berkeley ideologies with my new standards of self-care, I came to a final revelation — as a marginalized person I had redefined what excellence and success meant to me outside of the expectations of the UC Berkeley institution. I trusted in the process that the universe put me on, and now I have gotten a lot of the same outcomes that are expected of UC Berkeley students with a 1000 percent decrease in self-sacrifice. Find your magic formula for holistic health and wellness. I assure you that it’s worth it and will be applicable for the rest of your life because the ableist capitalist white supremacist patriarchy is not going away anytime soon.
Stay blessed, fam.
Brittney Enin is an extroverted, #BlackWomxnMagical, fifth-year majoring in public health with an emphasis on structural equity and racial justice. You can follow her on Twitter @NerdQween.