"I am Known to Stay Awake, A Beautiful World I'm Trying to Find"
Lyrics to Master Teacher, Eryka Badu, Written by James Jason Poyser/Burton Rashad Smith/Erica Wright
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As this year comes to a close I, like many others, have been struggling with multiple forms of fatigue. Some of us have been impacted more than others, but the unprecedented weight we’ve all experienced throughout this pandemic often feels like too much to handle. In nature, many animals hibernate to survive the harsh conditions of winter by conserving their energy. This type of dormancy might seem like an appealing state as we enter our tenth month of the pandemic during a year filled with drastic changes, loss of life, and continuing racial injustice. Even with a light at the end of this tunnel in the form of vaccines, the desire to slip into hibernation continues to beckon as spring, summer and the rest of 2021 feels so far away. 

When I joined the Office of Health Equity last February, I had no idea weeks later we’d begin a pandemic and worldwide shift of epic proportions. As the months creeped by, relationships were slowly formed through computer screens, emails and Google Chat. One day my first grader was having trouble focusing on his screen, wandering away each time our cat would walk by. It was a day jam-packed with meetings and news that a family member had tested positive for COVID-19. I went to get a drink of water and suddenly I was sitting on the kitchen floor feeling as though I might never get up again. But it’s not so much these moments, but the ones that come next, that really matter. 

Taking time to rest is vital, but figuring out how to get back into motion is much tougher than usual during this extraordinary year. It can be recognized that the pressures of both the pandemic and racial injustices continue to feed our fatigue, but it should not serve as an excuse for inaction. While the pandemic is temporary, systems of inequality are deeply embedded and require sustainable energy working against them. For allies like myself, our continued efforts are important to help support our colleagues of color and their dual burdens of both working, and living, in these systems of injustice. And much like we can’t stop taking protective measures against the coronavirus just because we feel tired of it all, we must also continue to work against systemic racism, and other inequities, until it no longer circulates and infects our society.

So how do we, as allies, keep ourselves accountable in moving forward? When I feel overwhelmed, it's a signal for me to reflect on my role within the social change ecosystem and look for opportunities to affect change. I also take time to connect with co-workers and our partners, outside of meetings with agendas and action items, to see how they are doing and what they might need from me for support. Decentering my own feelings of white guilt and frustration allows me to refocus my energy back into listening, and working alongside, our most impacted communities.

A new year may not bring an overnight resolution to all of our problems, but we need to know we are capable of working toward new solutions. We need all of us working toward this goal so when one of us stops to rest, there are others to take the baton and keep moving forward. I look forward to more listening, learning, and taking action with all of you as we take care not to slip back into dormancy, no matter how comfortable it may seem. 

Tracy Gripp
Community Partnerships Manager, Office of Health Equity
Dealing with the fatigue of this past year is a crucial part of maintaining the momentum of social justice work. Learn 4 ways all of us can work through social justice burnout and how people of color can cope with racial battle fatigue. For more on general self-care in the COVID-19 era, check out these tips from Boulder Community Health.
Office of Health Equity | cdphe.colorado.gov/ohe
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