About a year ago, I was forced to rest. I came from a surgery on my lower back and had to stay at home for a couple of weeks to recover. It was a weird feeling, the whole staying-at-home business. I was so used to filling my calendar with engagements that the sudden change of pace was jarring. Day in and day out for a month or so, I did almost the same thing: eat, sleep, read a book, watch anime, repeat.

I did enjoy slowing down, recollecting myself and erasing my backlog of shows to watch. At the back of my mind, though, I felt something was off. It seemed unfair that I could afford to be so carefree. To rest felt like it was such a privilege.

For me, entering the development sector and committing to the work of social transformation changes the way one thinks, moves, and does things. Everything starts to feel like a hustle. There’s always a pending task: a talk to prepare, a meeting to conduct with like-minded individuals. I have jumped from one gathering to another, convinced that I was working to improve this world. A nagging sense of urgency and responsibility powered me forward.

I felt the pressure. Accountabilities felt heavier. So much was at stake. My work actually affected others. If I didn’t push myself to finish this communication plan, it would have been a lost opportunity to influence the outcomes of an important political campaign. If I didn’t organize that meeting with a legislator, it would have been another day lost in highlighting a problem faced by a marginalized community I’ve gotten to know. If I didn’t take on this speaking engagement, it would have been a lost chance to influence young people to be part of an advocacy.

In a sense, we who are engaged in development work run around in a perpetual state of anxiety, chasing the next thing to do. Who can blame us? We look around and it feels like we’re in deep shit. We are inheriting a world that might end by 2030 because of foolish leaders who have no courage to make difficult decisions to protect the environment. We have leaders who flounder and are unable to articulate a clear plan for moving us forward. The way our economy is run, most of the wealth will soon belong to 1% of the population. Is this the world we want?

Faced with these grave problems, we can’t help but feel that we have a stake in solving them, that we are somehow accountable for bringing relief to those who are suffering and just dues to those who have less in life. How can I not respond? What right do I have to not give? What if I could have helped someone if instead of binge-watching Ghost Fighter I raised funds? Is there really time to rest?

The reality of inequality, of haves and have-nots has become even more stark amid the coronavirus pandemic. The privilege of not going hungry, of having a safe home, or not worrying about income has subconsciously driven me to keep doing something, anything to diminish my guilt over enjoying basic t‌hings. Half a year into the health crisis, anxiety besets me, manifesting itself in dreams where I find myself running away (usually from zombies), or in daydreams about an event that is not supposed to happen until the following day. I wake up and realize that I’m actually not done with my deliverables. Que horror!

March 2020 now feels like a distant memory. The adrenaline rush that made people organize and help those who suffer has given way to grief as we realize that this pandemic is here to stay for a while. Now I sit in meetings where the exhaustion of young people is palpable. An atmosphere of simply coping and surviving fill the once-energized spaces of collaboration.

Yet in spite of the fatigue that we feel in our bones, resting continues to feel like a privilege. The problems around us remain, seemingly ever-growing and ever-present. To stop and rest feels sinful.

Nevertheless, I have come to realize that the work of social transformation is a marathon. Pacing oneself is necessary. This does not mean that there are no urgent matters or that we play blind to the suffering around us and run away from it. This just means that I humbly accept that I can’t handle everything, that I get tired, that I get wounded in the fight for all that is good in this world.

My experience of recovering last year taught me this: I was and continue to be limited. I am not a messiah, I am just a collaborator in building a better world, and because of that, I need to be compassionate with myself. I have to rest.

Rest is a privilege, but it is a privilege I must claim though I am somehow well-off. If I do not, I just might not get through all of this.