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Put your oxygen mask on first, and 23 other life lessons I recently learned

I recently wrote a 24-tweet-long thread that summarized some of the life lessons I learned the hard way in the past few months, and thanks to the work of ThreaderApp I am able to summarize them here.

Panoramic view

(1) PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK FIRST. – I am a naturally generous person, so much so that I often forget to protect myself before helping others. This has worked much to my detriment in academia, as I often say YES to much service that perhaps I should have said no to. This is important.

(2) I OWE NOTHING TO NOBODY.- This lesson was a hard one to learn. In trying to be helpful, I often put too much pressure on myself to do things for my institution, my discipline(s), academia in general. I expend much time, energy, resources (often FINANCIAL one$$$).

(3) MANY PEOPLE ARE SELF-CENTERED AND NOT ALTRUISTIC, IDENTIFY THEM EARLY AND OFTEN.- Another one that you would think I, as a scholar of self-organization and cooperative behaviour, and a student of rational choice, would know, but I have way too much faith in people, still.

(4) LEARN TO ASK FOR HELP,- This one was also hard to learn. I always promise myself “I will not try to save the world today all by myself” and yet, off I often go and try to do this. These past few months, I’ve asked for help, and SURPRISE I have gotten so much! This was amazing.

(5) FIND YOUR CORE PEOPLE, AND LEAN ON THEM.- While you would think I have many thousand friends, anybody who knows me will know I’m actually really selective about who I call a good friend. My core people has sustained me through really dark periods of my life, I’m grateful.

(6) YOU NEED TIME AND SPACE FOR REFLECTION. Being able to really be away from my home institution, in a different country, surrounded by an entirely different environment, language, culture and society, forced me to step away and back from what I always have “on the go”.

(7) LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. I expected so many things to be different in the past few years, and yet (hey, I’m a neoinstitutional theorist, I look for historical lock-in behavioural patterns), in so many ways society is still the same. Expectations lead to disappointment.

(8) MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF (which relates to 1, PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK FIRST). The fact that I’m often too generous doesn’t mean that I don’t value myself (I’ve got a pretty healthy self-esteem, TYVM) – it means that the time I have for myself, I often trade off and give to others.

(9) MODEL THE BEHAVIOUR YOU WANT TO SEE. Giving, sharing and collaborating is innate to me, because that’s what I had modeled in my childhood: my grandpa, my auntie, my Mom, were all amazingly generous people, and I obviously behave much like the people who I see as role models.

(10) LISTEN. REALLY LISTEN.- As an ethnographer of marginalized populations, I try to give voice to, & lift those who often don’t have one. But these past few months have taught me to really listen to people. I’ve gotten interviews I never thought I would just by shutting my mouth.

(11) LEARN TO BE FLEXIBLE AND ADAPTIVE.- I used to be the kind of person who would say “it’s my way or the high way” (I’m a Type A, Upholder, Virgo). In the past few months, I’ve learned to relax and adapt. I’ve become what I preach to my students: more of a bamboo than an oak.

(12) LET GO OF THINGS, OF PEOPLE, OF IDEAS, OF ROUTINES.- In the past few months, I’ve listened to my old rule “the sandal I drop, I never ever pick up again” (la chancla que yo tiro, no la vuelvo a recoger). I’ve let go of toxic people, of stuff I’ve accumulated, of ideas/routine.

(13) VALUE WHAT YOU HAVE, NOT WHAT YOU DON’T. Living in Mexico, I was able to access a lot of things that living in France I am not. This frustrated me to no end. I am re-learning a lesson I always give my students and my friends: value what you DO have, not what you’re missing.

(14). TRUST YOURSELF AND WORK TO YOUR ADVANTAGES AND STRENGTHS. I know for a fact I make terrible decisions at night. I’ve forced myself to stop and just wait until next morning when I’m thinking more clearly. I don’t work beyond what my body is physically able of doing.

(15). AS MUCH AS YOU CAN, PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED. I never expected to spend 6 weeks at the beginning of the year sick, with chronic and unbearable pain, and yet having to Do All The Things (I was teaching in the spring). I never expected that I’d develop an allergy here either.

(16). HOLD ON TO YOUR CORE VALUES. In being adaptive, I’ve also learned to compromise, but I’ve also made much clearer my personal values. If something doesn’t jive with the values I hold dear, I simply say “no”.

(17). NOT EVERY FIGHT IS YOURS TO FIGHT.- I often feel like I’m responsible for championing the causes of those at the margins. But not every war is mine to engage. There’s a metric ton of people who are fighting the good fight, and it’s not my responsibility to Fight All Fights.

(18). DO WHAT YOU LOVE, WITH WHAT YOU CAN, WHEREVER YOU ARE. I love what I do, both professionally and personally. I wouldn’t trade my history (with the challenges, successes, losses and defeats I’ve had) for anybody else’s. What I’ve achieved is the result of what I’ve done.

(19). SLEEP. REST. RECOVER. NURTURE YOUR BODY AND YOUR SOUL. I felt so pressured to finish so many scholarly commitments that I sometimes forgot that if I wasn’t healthy, I would not be able to engage mentally with anything. Now, if I need a nap, or days off, I take them.

(20). PREPARE FOR THE WORST, EVEN IF YOU HOPE FOR THE BEST. I am now ready to fight challenges I didn’t feel ready for last month. This is because I know now that my capacity to adapt is much higher than I ever expected. But I’m always on guard, and prepare for what’s coming.

(21). YOU’RE IN THE DRIVING SEAT. I am the best person to make decisions about what’s best for me. I do confer with trusted advisors (and I did so earlier this year when I made two of the toughest decisions of my entire career) but in the end, only I can know what works for me.

(22) WRITE FOR YOURSELF. I’ve learned to be selfish about my research. I work on what I study because *I* believe it is important. So I write to help ME understand the world, and then share that understanding with others. I feel renewed in my approach to writing #AcWri.

(23) KONMARI YOUR LIFE. Get rid of overflowing stuff in your closets, excess emotional baggage, toxic and negative people (energy vampires). Give away well preserved clothes and other stuff to charities and people in need.

(24) COMPARE YOURSELF TO YOUR PAST SELF, NOT OTHERS. I am MUCH stronger now than I was 5 months ago. I know Paris and France and Europe much better, my spoken French has vastly improved, and I’ve been able to conduct interviews in French. I bettered MYSELF, not compared.

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