I already know that I have a gift that will come in as a close second this year. That gift is a long-awaited family reunion in my mom’s home country. It’s been a lifetime since I was here last, and another one before that since stepping foot in her small hometown up north, where the food is spicier and things feel more relaxed. Maybe it’s just the Northern way, but I have a strong suspicion that it also has a lot to do with the cool mountain air and being surrounded by terraces full of rice paddies tea leaves. Strangely, I’ve found that being shrouded by the morning mist loosens you up – a forced surrender to the elements – the same way being surrounded by four concrete walls does the exact opposite.
I’m writing this in between the car rides visiting countless Buddhist temples and the 3-hour “mini sleeps” I’m afforded. I’m from Seattle, based in Seattle, working on Seattle time.
Being able to work remotely is certainly a blessing. I love that I’m able to visit the lands of my ancestors. I love eating all the hearty, sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter foods I yearn for when I’m not within reach of my mom. I love hearing the sweet sound of my first language; even when my Thai is broken, my heart is so full.
But I’m tired. Really damn tired.
It’s more than the jet lag and working from 11pm to 7am because I work for a small organization that cannot afford to have staff away for too long. The same way a chill sets itself in your bones, so does exhaustion and burnout. It’s like climbing out of a hole made of sand – each step you take slides you back into the hole. Climbing, clawing, your way out saps you of all strength, and even then, you’re not on solid ground. All it takes is for one more setback to put you back in that hole.
We’re all tired. So, so tired.
Let’s face it. The last three years have compounded the impacts on every aspect of our health – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And where connection serves as perhaps our largest antidote to declines in our mental health, our social circles have been severely eroded, leaving us all feeling more isolated than before.
Collectively, we’re still reeling from vast amounts of grief. In addition to the public health crisis that is COVID-19, sheltering in place protocols subjected us to more harrowing news like the public murder of George Floyd and devastating mass shootings. We’ve lost family, friends, partners, hobbies, passions. We see headlines like “Could we be heading toward a global recession?” And to top it all off, we’re ending 2022 and headed towards that wonderful time of year where we’re pushed to reflect on this year and make grand plans for the next year to come.
It’s a lot. We’re all going through a lot right now.
It’s no wonder why we’re bingeing K-dramas and TikTok videos, immersing ourselves in digital worlds much more pleasant than the one it feels like we’re in at times.
I lost both of my grandparents in the last couple years. As a child of immigrant parents, my grandparents really were the ones who grounded us in our heritage and culture. Without them, I’ve noticed myself and my parents feeling untethered, unsure what the right next move is. But being in my late-twenties now, I find myself parenting my parents; where I’ve noticed hesitation and uncertainty by my mom, in particular, I’ve sought to find conviction and provide guidance. I am surprised that I am surprised by this role reversal, for my parents have always told me that I’d one day be taking care of them. I guess I just didn’t expect that to happen overnight.
In fact, this family reunion is only possible because we came to spread the ashes of my grandparents in their birthplace. Then, my family will start the new year pondering what it means to honor their legacy while leaving their own. Does that mean moving back to the motherland? Maybe I’ll share more about that journey of building a family legacy in another piece.
At a time when hate and violence targeting Asian Americans has skyrocketed, I notice my parents entertaining that option more and more. They question whether they’ve really belonged in this country they’ve called home for the last 50 years. Particularly as violence and hate have targeted elderly Asian Americans, they wonder about their safety as they age.
It’s a lot to think about all at once. And even as a social worker myself, I’m overwhelmed with all of these heavy life questions. I know I don’t need a clinician to diagnose me – and my family – with symptoms of burnout and depression. But it isn’t the diagnosis that scares me. It’s the continuous onslaught on our health.
It’s exhausting. And, it all can’t and won’t be figured out overnight.
Therefore, we must sustain ourselves.
We hear a lot about self-care these days, but I’ll cut to the chase. Skip the aspirational purchase this holiday season when shopping for yourself. While it may be enticing to get a new gadget designed to help you rest more, but the fact remains that, plain and simple, you need to rest. Like really rest. Did you know there are 7 types of rest? How about giving yourself 7 gifts this year?
You may have seen the phrase “Rest as Revolution” circulating on social media these last couple years. Whether that sounds like your cup of tea or not, I’ll bet that if you reached this point, you’re probably sleepy enough to take a nap. Let’s get you that. You deserve it.
At least you can cross off one out of seven on that rest list. And trust me, it’ll be one of the best presents you can get these days.
Brandon Hadi is a second-generation Indonesian-Thai American born in California’s Central Valley and raised in Seattle. Due to his spiritual and multicultural upbringing, he is deeply curious about the world we live in and the world that has been created by people. He was awakened to his purpose after his best friend died by suicide, transforming him into a fierce advocate for equitable mental health care and systems change. Inspired by prolific healers and writers such as adrienne maree brown, bell hooks, Bruce Lee, and Thich Nhat Hanh, Brandon approaches writing with an invitation for all of us to heal. Brandon received a M.Sc. in Social Work from Columbia University and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Washington. He is easily bribed by boba and easily grounded by yoga and poetry.