By Josephine Kamara, Purposeful Advocacy Manager
When my mother noticed that I stayed home a whole week without doing anything work-related, she thought I had been laid-off work. I took the time to explain to her that I am on a Radical Rest, but that left her even more confused.
It was the same reaction she gave the first time I got a full-time work contract with Purposeful. After giving birth to my daughter (who is now three years old), I took a maternity leave, and a month into that my mother asked me, “Are you sure the position will still be there when you get back?” I admit that I was a bit frightened and anxious to return to work.
My mother’s generation was taught to work without stopping, with the view that REST is a lazy mindset. I was taught to work! If my bones do not hurt and my brain fried, then I am not working hard enough — this was the work lesson passed on to me by my grandmother and mother. Society has misunderstood what “dignity in labour” means — so I learned it as I saw it from the women around me, that work means toiling — instead of the philosophy that work should be fulfilling and nourishing and uplifting.
The master will not give us what will liberate us — REST — and this is why people find it strange when we tell them that our team is on a week-long Radical Rest. Just like my mother, society is fixed on people working endlessly, and more so, women working harder than normal in an unending cycle of toiling in order to demonstrate that we are hard workers, and we are worthy of the chance to prove ourselves to employers. In fact, we must even be thankful that we have jobs.
Women, Yes, I mean you — take a deep breath — PAUSE, it’s ok to rest. We need to emancipate ourselves from the mental slavery around work and normalise rest.
At Purposeful, rest is a non-negotiable part of our work. Moving forward we will be doing a week-long Radical Rest three times a year, to focus on self and healing from all the ways that we are impacted by the systems that we are fighting to overturn.
Healing Justice and Self Care is Political. The work we do should be healthy or there is no point doing it. We will just reinforce the very things we are trying to overturn. We have a lot of fun working with and for girls. But there is also pain in dealing with the issues girls face. So much of our work triggers deep memories in us as activists and survivors, and this can deeply affect our mental health. If we are too sick, exhausted, self-harming and hopeless, it becomes easier to control us in the servitude of oppressive systems and institutions. As Audre Lorde said, self care “is self preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”
When it comes to work, more doesn’t equal better; burnout is not progress, and definitely the praises you receive from an oppressive system is not success. When we don’t take time to care for self, it affects our performance and inner peace — so a time to reset is important in the workspace. It helps to combat stress and burnout, and when we return to work, we are energised and are motivated to get the job done.
Rest is liberating. It’s ok to take it, it’s ok to book your leave, you don’t have to be a slave to the system. This is the feminist thing to do, and this is why Radical Rest at Purposeful is political.