You get better at whatever you practice.
That’s why I have gotten serious about giving myself the gifts that only I can give. Walking outdoors for fresh air. Running to clear my head. Maintaining so much clarity about my life’s work that others’ agendas don’t become mine. Being generous with “no.” Saying “yes” only when I actually want to do something.
The value of these gifts to myself cannot be easily measured. They are priceless. So I usually don’t think of self-care in material terms. Anyone else can give me fancy tea or perfume, a designer handbag or piece of jewelry. They can’t take a walk for me.
And yet in early April, after months of browsing for inspiration and emailing with a consultant, I picked up a beautiful custom ring that I had purchased for myself.
It wasn’t entirely my idea: In January 2020, while attending a conference, I had lunch with the scholar and poet Therí Pickens. When we finished, I accompanied her to a jeweler to pick up a ring she had ordered as a gift to herself for being promoted to the rank of professor at Bates College. The outing felt not only joyful but also sacred. I would soon put myself up for promotion review at my own university, and I vowed then that I, too, would be deliberate in my celebration.
I will not find out until May or June whether the institution where I’ve worked since 2005 is promoting me to full professor. But as my case has been reviewed by various committees, and administrators have demanded explanations of minor aspects of my record, it’s been clear that those empowered to judge my achievements have not accounted for the racism and sexism that I have faced in their midst while still making significant contributions to the university. Forced to look back on my journey, I have determined that it makes no sense to value their assessment of what I have achieved, especially not above my own.