Hello, I’m Michelle!! I’m 22 and was born and raised in the US with Chinese heritage. As Kutenda means “thankful” in Shona, I’ll say first and foremost that I’m very thankful for Tina reaching out to me to write a blog piece – she has been a wonderful friend and continues to inspire me with her spirit and through all her endeavors. I am also thankful for platforms like these that are highlighting the incredibly beautiful and complex experiences of marginalized people and their communities.
When I was brainstorming for this blog, I had a list of topics that I could talk about but time seems to be the most relevant one to me right now; I’m always surprised whenever I am reminded that it has been a little over 7 months since March when the pandemic really started to affect my life on the East coast.
Two social media accounts @abolish_time and @TheNapMinistry have recently expanded my ideas of time beyond the widely understood western concept of time and rest, respectively. To give you an idea, one of the former’s posts argues that time “limits our imagination to what we can fit into our lives when we are off the clock […they] hope to explore the ways we can undermine this [colonized] form of social control so that we can liberate our capacity of interdependence, and render capitalism obsolete in the process of doing so.” The Nap Ministry’s Twitter bio says “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance & reparations.” Their pinned tweet states “Dreaming of a world that includes justice for all those sleep deprived, exhausted and caught up in the hustle and shenanigans of white supremacy and capitalism.”
I recently graduated from university, finished my temporary job and have now been job searching for the last two weeks. As my life now lacks the structure of work, I find myself navigating my relationship with time, productivity and fulfillment. The first week after my job ended, I imposed a one week break to rest. At first, I was constantly thinking about job applications and was filled with anxiety about unemployment. I almost decided to cut my break short to 3 days. Thankfully, I managed to rest up, try out some hobbies, and come out of the break feeling much more recentered.
I participate in group therapy and this week I brought up that I have been feeling guilty about sleeping in past 3 am and waking up at 2 pm (14h); I recalled a time when a family friend told me that if they slept in past 10 am, their parents told them that they had wasted their whole day. A group member pointed out that I seemed to be feeling a sense of shame and guilt for not complying with norms of American work hours and disappointing someone who doesn’t exist.
Western ideas of time and productivity have created a sense of shame in listening to what our souls and bodies need. As kids, we answer to the clock in the same way that workers clock in and out. We eat when we are told to, even if we are not hungry. We must get up before 10 am on the weekends because otherwise we will have wasted the entire day. What does it even mean to waste a day? Is rest not enough of a reason to stay in bed? Why do we rush to offer up our labor and lives over to a cruel system that exploits us and profits off of our pain? When I think about these questions, my first thought is balancing rest and discipline but it’s crucial to remember that our society is poorly rested by design.
It’s unfortunate that we have such limited time on this earth and so much of it is spent in shame. We comply with the norms of time and productivity, ignore what our bodies tell us, and ultimately fail to honor our own needs and humanity in order to survive under racial capitalism. Under current conditions, self-preservation is only guaranteed for the elite. Where we should coexist with time, we are made to feel like we answer to the clock and are restricted in imagination and in action by the coercive “need” to do certain things at certain times.
To quote Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Before I knew better, I previously shamed my friends for sleeping in too late and in turn am now shaming myself for my abnormal sleep patterns. We owe it to ourselves and those around us to resist grind culture by slowing down, sitting with and unlearning this shame by genuinely listening to our souls and our bodies’ needs. I hope this allows you to rest easier and expands the imagination (even if just a little) in thinking critically about time and rest both on a personal and structural level.
By Michelle Gung