Caring for all but ourselves
On addressing one person for many, and myself for no one else
Our industry has a problem.
The problem is that because we care SO much, we don’t make space to care for ourselves.
I spoke briefly to this at a special part of IA Conference 2023 called Five Minute Madness, when anyone is welcome to speak for a few minutes about whatever moves them. Some folks will share gratitude, others will share something they learned at the conference, and others make requests of the community.
As I listened to this year's Five Minute Madness, I thought also about the talks I had attended by incredible people who shared stories of their careers: how they had struggled with colleagues and bosses who didn’t value our methods or expertise, and how they had overcome these hostile environments, or moved on.
I thought, too, of all the people who had shared with me after my own presentation, Liminal Butterfly Goo. In the presentation, I talked about recent career and identity struggles, and afterward, these IA Conference people shared their own struggles with me. Some told me that working too hard and caring too much affected their bodies enough to send them to the hospital. Another told me that they had come to the Conference to try to figure out what to do next with their career, only to find that others had the same problems and questions as them.
So at Five Minute Madness, I got up to tell one contributor that she, contrary to what she had just said, was not selfish. I told her from the microphone for her, of course, but that would have been done better in private. I told her from the microphone for anyone in the room who had heard her speech and felt that they, too, were selfish.
I found someone else in the crowd. I told them, contrary to what they had just said, they would not have ruined the conference by asking to be addressed respectfully. I told this person from the microphone not only for them, but for anyone who thinks that they must make themselves small for the comfort of others.
Back when I decided to give my formal conference talk, I did it, indeed, to share with and help my fellow IA Conference-goers. But more than that, I did it for myself.
I sought a milestone that would help me pause and declare: This is what happened and why. This is how I am choosing to move in the world, and I accept it, even as I feel disappointed in it. Sometimes power comes first in the story-writing, and second in the story-telling.
Choosing to write my talk and connect with my community was an act of self-care. It was an act of self-compassion. It was something I needed, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do it.
Dear friends, we are not alone. We are not selfish. We belong just as we are.
So, I will end this newsletter as I concluded my contribution to Five Minute Madness, as I groped for words that would covey my goodwill and love for our community.
Self-care is not selfish.
Self-compassion is not selfish.
Joy is beautiful.
Looking for my talk, Liminal Butterfly Goo, from the IA Conference 2023? You can find slides and links to references from the presentation over on the Finding Out website. IA Conference will also be publishing recordings of some conference presentations. I’ll be sure to tell you about them when they are released.
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