How do you care for the world and yourself at the same time?


I have a lot of trouble finding the line between putting my time into helping others and spending the time I need to take care of myself.

Last night, I co-managed and chaperoned our high-school’s yearly code-a-thon. It’s an overnite lock in where mostly students come, interact with each other outside of a class setting, and maybe associate that with programming being a cool thing at some point.

I do the work because it’ important to me and, I think, the world. I strongly believe that we all – and especially kids – need more positive unstructured play than anyone in power is willing to admit, and anything I can do to move that ball down the field a little fills me with a sense of purpose.

I’m glad I did it, and coming out of it I have a deeper understanding of my individual students and a slightly better understanding what Play looks like in 2018.

I’m fried.

I came home and slept for an hour, hung out with my wife, and then slept for another two hours. I was trying to decide whether or not to go with her to a Roller Derby match so I could get more comfortable before I call a full derby match next month for her team.

And then I read the now-locked thread on whether on not it’s OK to be selfish.

I was sad to see that conversation degenerate, because I think it’s one of the most important conversations we can be having right now. In addition, I think Waypoint’s dual focus on play and social good make this an amazing potential forum for that conversation.

The thread was locked, justifiably imo, because it did not provide enough context for the conversation. This is my attempt to approach it from a more collaborative/constructive angle:

How do we care enough for ourselves to do the good work? How can we help each other find the line between self-care and self-indulgence?


There is some crossover between your question and that posed in this thread: How do I find joy when everything is “problematic”?


Thanks for the ref!


They are, in a lot of ways, the same question – how do you keep yourself sane enough to keep going. The question I have that I don’t think that thread quite answers is where you draw the line in terms of moment to moment choice – rather than in terms of what you choose to include / exclude from your personal canon.


I thought you articulated a great answer to your own question as you introduced it. This is my perspective:

  1. Working yourself to the bone to create a better world is not a sustainable practice. Even people who are in excellent physical and mental health have limited resilience - a limited capacity to tolerate physical, mental, and emotional distress before reaching exhaustion or having a breakdown. Being an effective agent of change means being an effective steward of your own wellness. If you have chronic migraines and today is a pain day, maybe going to that march against school shootings isn’t the right thing to do; maybe the best thing for you and everyone is for you to focus on getting well, so that you can go volunteer, or work to make rent this month, or even just relax and fend off a bout of hopelessness/depression that’s looming in the background. In the long run, doing the most good means recognizing that your energy and stress levels are valuable resources that need to be carefully conserved and spent when they’ll count the most.

  2. Inherent in social justice is the idea that people have value independent of who they are or what they do. Well, aren’t you a person? Your well-being has value and is a legitimate goal to pursue. One of the things that bothers me about discussions of “self-care” and “work-life balance” is that the language often has this capitalistic focus on concern about loss of productivity. I recently read an op-ed about physician wellness in the New England Journal of Medicine that read like it was written by Rigor - It costs nearly $250,000 to replace a physician lost to burnout - make sure to take some time for yourself! The same is true for your wife’s well-being; perhaps even more so, since you presumably exchanged some sort of vows about being thoughtful and supportive partners. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to place fighting to make the world a better place an aspirational goal that comes after ensuring some minimum acceptable standard of wellness for yourself, your loved ones, and your relationships with them.

  3. There are countless forms of injustice and harm in the world being perpetrated by billions of people. No matter how extraordinary a person you are or how hard you work, there will always be more work to do. In accepting this, we should give ourselves permission to focus on the issues we are most passionate about - those which we find most motivating and rewarding, which cost us the least personal well-being to fight for. If pushing back against the industrialization of childhood by motivating children to value unstructured play is a worthy goal that brings you joy, do that. It’s OK to focus on what drives and satisfies you in preference of other worthy opportunities. It’s OK to say to yourself “I’m too tired right now to put energy into X good cause because I did the lock-in for the kids this week.”

When I’m asked to donate several hours of my time for a good cause, the question “can I commit to this?” is really asking these things: Do I have the energy to add this to my plate? If I have the energy, is there something else in my life that I really ought to be spending it on? And is the effort worth what I’m going to get out of it (e.g. in personal reward/satisfaction from having done the thing as well as whatever ‘objective’ good it does the world).