Sounds simple, right? “Self care matters” is an obvious statement, yet I still managed to completely ignore this fundamental principle of being a healthy human throughout 2023 as I entered my first corporate job after 25+ years as a working professional.
For the past 10 months, I’ve worked so hard and so relentlessly, without regard for my well being that I’ve broken my body. On multiple fronts. I’ve also rekt my nervous system. And I deployed self-care practices as an after thought when I realized just how far I took this dysfunctional approach to my work. I deployed zero work-life balance, almost no nervous system support and straight up ignored my body’s signals until it had to get my attention— dramatically.
I don’t need to recap my current health situation— I wrote about here and minted it on chain as a testament and guide of what NOT to do. I spent the last 2 years prior to my job, studying Yoga in one of the most intensive programs in the country. I have 1000 hours of training, including yogic philosophy, anatomy, history and meditation. I know better. And yet, I still ignored my body and plowed straight into a wall.
What does that mean for others who didn’t spend years studying yoga and the nervous system?
What does that mean for those who do not have the understanding or ability to engage is proper self care?
What does it mean for those who work in these types of organizational structures and are not in positions of leadership?
How are their nervous systems handling the demands of their bosses and the reality of a 24/7 web3 cycle that we are all navigating?
I didn’t check myself and I wrecked myself— what does that mean for others?
Last week I finally had a consult with a neurosurgeon about my current neck and shoulder situation. The appointment took 3 weeks to land and in that time, I simply had these ominous MRI results hanging over my head. As someone with a somewhat dramatic and overactive imagination, you can imagine the narratives I spun for weeks. Walking into the orthopedic center on Friday almost sent me into a full on 3 year old crying fit in the lobby while I waited to hear my fate.
Surrounded by aging and broken bodies, people in visible pain and discomfort and knowing that I failed to take care of my own body and placed myself in that lobby through a failure to manage stress and work-life balance was devastatingly eye opening. It’s been 20 years since I had to sit in one of these lobbies, and at least that incident had a fun story to tell. Wrecking yourself on a wakeboard is a way better story than wrecking yourselves at a desk on perpetual zoom calls.
As I waited for the doctor inside the exam room, I had a whole mental 3 ring circus where I swung between accepting whatever was about to be the next 6-12 months of my life— surgeries, radical lifestyle change, loss of mobility and the acceptance of my actual age (I roll much younger than my years—ha!!) and sadness to the point of tears. I was also terrified that the surgeon would be a typical American surgeon, ready to slice and dice in order to heal and ignoring the actual bodies ability to heal itself. I was not mentally ready to advocate for my health with an old school surgeon and thought of doing so was overwhelming.
Luckily, the doctor walked in with an amazing energy and was my age and I immediately relaxed. We did the overview of where I was, did some muscle testing and then gathered around a computer screen filled with some wild ass scans of my cervical spine. He walked me through, visually, what the problem was and showed me exactly where the disc at the base of my neck had torn its barely remaining cartilage and kicked out to press on the nerve. I was so fascinated I totally forgot I was looking at my own neck. He then said that my case was one of the 80+% that clears up on its own and can somewhat restore itself over time and never need surgery.
We then had a full on conversation about blockchain, NFTs for medical records with attestations and I basically greenpilled him. He wanted to dive deeper into our tech, but had other patients. I left the appointment with a deep sense of relief, like a giant weight had been lifted. I took my body right up its breaking point and I got a very painful and dramatic lesson to not do that again. Red flags flying all over on this one.
Before that appointment— there were two possible paths to stem from that consult. One was very dark and depressing, another was doable and hopeful. Luckily, the doable and hopeful one is my reality now. I don’t enjoy writing these long ass narratives about my health and this much personal story is borderline cringy for me. That’s not really who I am. I like to write about strategy, philosophy and concepts that impact our mission as community builders in web3. But I’m now realizing that this conversation is just as important as the topics I normally dedicate my limited creative time to producing.
Self care for those who are building the technology to power our future is just as important as the technical skills needed to securely build a wallet, audit a smart contract or deploy a dApp. Self care for the builders who support the communities that make these technical feats possible is also just as important as the community building itself.
We talk a lot about self care and mindfulness in technology and many orgs have solid work-life balance policies in place for their workers. But we need to ensure that we also give people the space and ability to put this all into practice. If the leaders of our orgs wish to have strong engineers and builders on their teams, they need to wake up to the fact that old, traditional leadership practices where hustle and burnout are rights of passage are not acceptable any more. In any industry.
Our world is going through massive upheaval and chaos right now. And that will be our new normal, probably for the rest of my lifespan. Trad leadership and corporate frameworks need to also transform to embrace this chaos and support the humans navigating it all— at home and at work. If we fail to do this, if we fail to understand that we are in emergent systems now and we need leadership that reflects such a fluid state, then our employees and the folks who make all of our technology and innovation possible will leave. Life is way too short and fleeting to stay in toxic work situations for long durations.
We all can see the reality on our horizon, barreling at us with each “this is the hottest summer on record” headline— every single year. This reality of systems change lives in the back of all of our minds, whether we acknowledge it or not. We simply can’t continue to break ourselves for OKRs and ROIs when the communities we love and dwell within are struggling through a bigger vision of survival.
Mission-driven community builders are here to make change at scale by supporting humans who gather to further a collective mission. At the end of the day, we can not do that if we, ourselves are broken.
We can pretend that we’re ok, or we can claw our way to time off like I did and land in a murky puddle at the end, but that serves no one. Not our communities, not our employers or our employees, not our founders, not our families, not even ourselves. Eventually, everyone we serve suffers from our lack of self care. While being in my current situation is a pain in the neck (pun intended) and is requiring radical changes, they are all good things. Every mistake is a lesson. What started as a beautiful oopsie for me became a “oh fuck mistake” because I ignored the oopsie. I saw it, felt it and egotistically thought I could just keep going. I was wrong. And my body let me know. Before it was too late. Barely.
So, I ask you, lovely reader, to take a moment and look at your current mental and physical state.
Are you in a state of balance or do you see areas to improve?
Do you have a support system or practice to find balance when you spiral or something major happens?
Do you have healthy work boundaries and are you able to protect them with your boss and your coworkers?
Are you able to unplug from work completely and let your mind be still? (spoiler alert-- I’m terrible at this one-- so be kind with yourself if you struggle here)
We are on this journey together, as a collective of community builders, leaders and members of a technological movement. Let’s all take the time to weave in more “me time” and set healthy boundaries and new practices so we can show up as our best selves and not burnout on a regular basis.
And if you want to join the conversation, please hop over to Farcaster and join the /selfcare channel I kicked off last weekend. Let’s support one another and then weave these practices and philosophies into the fabrics of the social layers we all believe so deeply in and are to support.
The cover image was created while I was working in Palestine in 2007 on a journalism project with colleagues from UNC Chapel Hill. While at the Sulha Peace Festival, I photographed many young Palestinian and Israeli children dancing and playing together along with religious leaders of all faiths leading prayers and ceremony for peace. Since October, I’ve had a hard time looking at any of these images because they hold so much devastation now. This image embodies the simple beauty of our human experience and the child in this image is the manifestation of the joy we can all find in song and dance. This image will always be in my top 5 images from a lifetime of documenting and it will always break my heart while simultaneously bringing me joy. The paradox of our modern journey.