Before the pandemic, I was on autopilot all day, every day, preoccupied with everything and nothing at all.
I was living in a 600-square-foot studio apartment in Rogers Park, a neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. I had moved to Chicago to do meaningful work in immigration advocacy. I have always wanted to help improve the immigration system. For a long time, that meant becoming an immigration lawyer, and then it turned into getting involved in state and local-level policy changes. But this work led me to feel depleted in ways I didn’t even know were possible. As both a directly affected person and an advocate, it was too hard to separate my work and personal life. Every time the government made a change in immigration (which was every Friday), I felt the blow deep in my gut.
On top of these constant changes, I was struggling to make ends meet. After full days at work, I started to deliver food through Uber Eats on the weekends and in the evenings just to cover my living costs. Many times, I had to count on friends to help buy my groceries until my next paycheck. I was so preoccupied with surviving that I couldn’t consider how to live.
The pandemic silenced the noise of the outside world enough that it gave me space to be still and hear my own voice again. I went on social media cleanses and tried to find healthy ways to turn inward. I took walks around the neighborhood to get out of my apartment and get off my screens. I started journaling, which had felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford when my time was consumed with busyness.
I started to live more purposefully, becoming more intentional about the people I poured into, the way I spent my time and the direction of my spiritual life. I stepped away from attending Sunday morning church services and Bible studies. I tried three different churches in Chicago, but they all felt the same. Nothing resonated with me — preachers talking about loving your neighbor … but maybe not those neighbors the preachers claimed were sinful. Sunday services felt more like an act than a spiritual practice.
I decided to move back in with my parents after being on my own for three years. I felt a tug to be closer to my family and to create more memories with them. I am now in a space of grounding and flow. I no longer live with the weight of trying to be everything for everyone. I am no longer running to do the next task or reach the next level of accomplishment. I am simply being, feeling called at this moment in my life to just be still and listen.
There will always be more work to do in this world. This pandemic season has taught me to do what feels authentic, to share the load and to listen to the voice within me that calls me to spiritual health and wholeness.