Coworker: “How are you doing?”
What I think: I mean we have been living in a pandemic, racial unrest, and historic unemployment with little to no support from the government and now we are in a stage of mass evictions, and additional government failures for a year now. And I constantly feel like I am not doing enough for my community during this time. And I’m lucky to still be employed, so I need to pretend like none of this is happening. And to be honest I am tired.
What I Say: “I am fine, just tired.”
March 2020 through April 2021. More than a year living in a pandemic. Over 500,000 people have died due to COVID in the US alone. A summer of protests against police brutality that were met with more police brutality. A presidential election like no other. Endless murders of Black brothers and sisters across the country by police and racist. A riot in Washington D.C. by the before mentioned racist. A historic snowstorm in Texas partnered with a failure to manage power grids and weatherize energy sources by the only state that has its own power grid that left millions without power and water for days, particularly in Black and Brown communities, leading to many deaths and hundred of monoxide hospitalizations. And now add the continued escalation of Asian hate that has led to a domestic terrorist attack and increased fear in and attacks on the Asian American Pacific Islander communities stemming from hateful and inaccurate rhetoric on the COVID-19 virus origins and general white supremacy that runs rampet in the United States. All wrapped up with additional responsibility to take care of family, at-home child care, virtual education, record numbers of women leaving or being removed from the workforce, and zero work-life balance consistently for the last year. That is the year that we all experienced.
All this to say I am tired, I have been tired, and I will continue to be tired for the foreseeable future.
The body is made to deal with stress, like it legit has built-in coping mechanisms, but what happens when the body experience chronic stress? Well, it shuts down. Its natural coping mechanisms can’t replenish to keep you safe. The Mayo Clinic says that this chronic stress can cause anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment. But what happens when that stress goes on for a year or more continuously and somehow increasingly intense?
My answer is that it leads to “I’m tired” being the only response. This is a phrase that I heard constantly growing up by Black elders and never really understood what it exactly means. It is more than the I need a nap kind of tired, honestly, no nap could ever fix it. It’s a tiredness and heaviness in your soul. It is a tiredness that happens when one traumatic event after another occurs for long periods of time.
The worst part about this type of tiredness is that it’s the type where you have to convince yourself to keep going, but if you do it too much, this turns to burnout. We are in a pandemic that is killing people, leaving people unemployed and causing major stress, and many of us Black and Brown folk are putting on our masks going to work and pretending like their communities aren’t being disproportionately being affected by all of this and the world isn’t crumbling around them. And honestly, it is expected of many of us, for if we didn’t people would act like we are the weird ones.
So yes, I am tired. I am tired of wearing the mask of perfection and playing like what is happening in the real world isn’t affecting my work. Communities of color are tired. They are tired of getting the short end of the stick when it comes to justice, government support, and simply being forgotten. Black communities are tired. They are tired of having solutions prescribed to them from systems, groups, and people that have never spoken to them and have never tried to understand the realities in which they live, of being murdered or arrested for simply existing, and not only caring for their own community but bringing everyone else’s community with them (Black women saving America, again).
There is a collective tiredness that is going on right now, where we don’t even have the energy to be surprised or disappointed anymore, it just is. It is a collective tiredness that seems to never actually get addressed except for by those who are tired yet continue to push forward for the sake of their community.
So no I am not alright. No we are not alright. We are tired.