Been thinking a lot about giving recently. Giving our time, energy or money to others is something that makes us feel good as human-beings and feels urgent in this current political climate. Giving, in any sense of the word, feels good (and not just for Christmas). But how do we prioritise what to give, and to who, in a world that is becoming more fast-paced by the second?
I’m finding Teen Vogue to be a brilliant source of helpful information and practical suggestions on how you can actually take action following any news tragedy or ongoing issues. Following a range of different people on Twitter who share useful links, and pinpointing a list of charities you care about is a good start too. Sometimes even if you can’t physically give anything, simply sharing a message can be something over nothing. (Especially if it’s a U.S. specific link, like this one). Here are a few examples of organisations I follow and support Ditch The Label an anti-bullying organisation, Help Refugees; Girl Effect; The Global Goals; I receive updates from the Women’s Equality party and the work of Integrate which focuses on equality and integration of young people.
I went on a tiny Twitter rant the other day about the plea at the bottom of Guardian articles asking for donations. I understand that quality journalism needs to be paid for (and in a world of so-called “fake news” good lord we need to have valid and verified quality news), but it jarred with me because it feels like a newspaper like the Guardian should be commercially viable in other ways without donations from people who might not have much to give? I’m personally more than happy to pay for content I care about via subscriptions. I like the idea of Patreon but it’s hard to know which creatives/YouTubers to support when other things are demanding attention, but there always seems to be a Kickstarter campaign that grabs my fancy, most recently the Nasty Women anthology book which I can’t wait to read (should be getting my copy soon as it was successfully funded, woop!).
What about in other areas of our lives? I’ve always been hit with mixed messaging on the topic of “how much to give” when it comes to building a successful career and articles on ~women in the workplace~ for example. I’ve been told we shouldn’t give so much of ourselves away. Don’t be taken advantage of. Never complain, never explain. Demand flexibility. Ask for more. Say no.
This is aimed at working parents too, and the overarching dialogue seems to be: “Hey you! Don’t give all of yourself away to work and home, otherwise they’ll be hardly any “you” left!” In between the working and life admin we’re supposed to have time for a big shiny hobby and be well-groomed too. If you don’t have a fresh hair-cut to post on Instagram and a side-hustle then what are you even doing with your life? But it’s not as simple as that, and we all know it. It’s about deciding how much you “give” of yourself in other areas of your life. Sometimes, we are, quite simply, bogged down with s.t.u.f.f. Any parent out there has my absolute respect. That’s what it looks like to give. Often with no praise, or thanks, or time-off for years.
It’s by no means the same, but the media industry can make you feel like you are working for no real return. You may well blog for free, review things for free, host an event for free, email people your writing pitches and get no reply. It can make you feel pretty rubbish, to give give give give and get nothing back.
But it matters to prioritise. It might be that you need to shift what exactly you are giving, to who and how much. Who and what do you want to give your time and energy to?
Do you reply to the University student who has asked you to answer a three-page interview via email for her dissertation? Or do you work on a personal project that may benefit more students, in the long-term? Do you go for the coffee with the person who only gets in touch when they want to pick your brain? Do you switch off the news to give your brain a rest? Do you cancel seeing a friend because you’ve got a cold and it’ll impact your whole week if you don’t rest properly? Which friends are actually your friends? Who is draining you?
I’ve been thinking of people who inspires me because of how much they give, and how focused they are with their giving: Lliana Bird, co-founder of Help Refugees who gives SO much time and money to support and run a charity that is doing amazing things. Annie Lennox, who I met recently at an event who introduced herself as a HIV/Aids activist. Adele who publicly said she wanted to give her Grammy to Beyonce. My mum, who always gives so much to my sister and I (sorry about all those trips to the dentist for my braces and A&E – I was such a clumsy child) and my Dad who gives me the confidence to do my own thing and always supports my gut/heart instinct choices.
I want to give more, to the things and people I care about. I think my message amongst all this is that we must strike a balance in order to be our best selves and be able to give in the possible best way to the things that matter most to us. Go easy on yourself. Give what you can, when you can.