In Honour of World Mental Health Day 2016: The Unconventional Accomplishment Resume

[EDIT, 10/10/16: HELLO FRIENDS. I’ve made my resume! You can read it here. It was a really fun exercise, and it reminded me of something important: even if I’d filled up ten times as many pages, I still couldn’t write down every time I’d impacted my community/society/the world in a positive way. There’s just too many of them, and that’s true for you, too. It’s true for all of us.]

This upcoming Monday, October 10th, is recognized as World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organization. In honour of that, I thought I’d dedicate a post to mental health issues that I and my demographic experience. While I’ve posted about mental health before, notably with my three-part series on panic attacks, it’s an endless source of contemplation and discussion and I’ve still got a lot to say.

So. To be honest with you, lovely readers, my own mental health is sliding already–we’re baby steps into October and I’ve already had several days where I don’t even want to leave my bed for all the overwhelming things I ‘need’ to get done. In particular I’ve noticed a persistent feeling of being unaccomplished: I’m struck at random times of the day by the dreadful certainty that I’m missing or forgetting something important, that people need something from me that I haven’t provided, that I’m not organizing my time or my energy or my focus in a way that both a) fulfills my responsibilities and b) creates space for self-care.

I’m a huge proponent of reaching out to your support system/friend network when you’re in need of encouragement or validation, so to combat my anxieties I posed a question on Facebook: “what’s one time I made a positive/useful impact or difference in your life?” Then I responded with one time the person in question had done the same for me. Simple, pragmatic, and with a delicious ripple effect–it got me to thinking about all the things I’ve done for my community that go unnoticed or unappreciated by the work/corporate world. It got me thinking about all of the work we do that doesn’t ‘count’ as work. It got me thinking about the impacts we make–truly lasting and valuable impacts–that go unwritten on, say, a resume.

There are far too many, I decided. So I propose a little challenge in honour of World Mental Health Day: The Unconventional Accomplishment Resume.

What on Earth Is That?

My fellow eAmbassador Jasmin and I were in Lunik talking about Life-the-Universe-and-Everything one afternoon. Within that discussion was a discussion about our health and how it had changed/declined/improved over months or years. We each shared stories about the emotional labour we put into things like social situations, maintaining relationships, and processing/recovering from different types of stress and trauma. We discussed how our society conceptualizes ‘work’ and the ways in which it is detrimental to our lives. We talked about ‘success’ and the very narrow definition of success that’s still in place, both in society and in our own minds (as a result of internalizing that social messaging).

One of us–I forget who–brought up the Failure Resume. This was something our lovely boss Courtney had actually shared with the whole eAmbassador team late last year: Johannes Haushofer, a psychology professor at Princeton, put together what he called his CV of Failures and published it online for the world to see; he wanted to “provide some perspective” about how even someone seemingly ‘successful’ has been rejected and disappointed dozens of times along the way. (This thing is absolutely worth a read, because Haushofer does a wonderful job of providing that perspective–especially with the last point on the CV!)

I’d like to make a failure resume someday, when I’m a) more traditionally successful and therefore have b) failed a lot more than I have now. But the idea of the resume format stuck with us, and we agreed it would be a wonderful exercise in self-reflection and self-compassion to write a resume-style list of accomplishments that would, for one reason or another, never make it onto a traditional CV.

That’s what the Unconventional Accomplishment Resume is. It’s a place to praise and to celebrate all the unpaid, underappreciated work you do. It’s a place to recognize that you do more ‘work’ in the world than what is traditionally recognized. It’s essentially the Thankless Job CV.

How Do I Write One?

  1. This isn’t mandatory–nothing is–but it’s extra-fun (and extra-subversive) if it looks like a resume. Put in those headings and dates/times if you can.
  2. Take some time to sit with yourself and consider what value you bring to your community. Now is the time to play with semantics: by ‘community’ I mean your family, your friends, your coworkers, your fellow students, members in an extracurricular club/activity, and more. And by ‘value’ I mean ‘positive difference’ or ‘useful impact’ or even ‘defining moment’ if you want. The concept of valuable work is so overcomplicated in our society. Here’s what it should boil down to: what problems are you helping to solve? In what ways are you solving them?
  3. If you’re feeling stuck, then do what I did and poll your community. Ask for examples of moments where you changed their lives for the better, even in small ways. Ask what they feel you have given them in the time you’ve known them. And be sure to return the favour and let them know how they have added value to your life.
  4. If you’re feeling REALLY stuck, then here are some heading suggestions:

Important Conversations You Had: the time you discussed the value of kindness with a friend? Important. The time you educated your younger sibling about consent and healthy relationships? Important. The time you explained to your parents why racist jokes aren’t funny? Important (and sometimes exasperating–which just means it’s all the more worthy of being called work). The time you sat down and discussed politics with someone of opposing views without being deaf to their perspectives? Important. And on and on.

Good Deeds You’ve Done: could either be things you have a habit of doing–bringing spiders and other creepy crawlies outside instead of squishing them, for instance–or single instances, like offering to edit your classmate’s paper before finishing your own, or picking up that extra shift at work to help out a sick coworker, or lending a friend a movie that changed their life.

Undocumented Community Service: sure, you can stick your 3+ years of teaching the elderly to use technology on your CV, but what about just plain holding the door for folks? Giving heartfelt thank yous to cashiers? Calling out instances of racism/sexism/etc in public? Picking up litter? Community service is exactly what it sounds like: service to the community. Giving what you have to society to make it a little easier to exist in, whether that gift of yours is your politeness, your warmth, your patience, your courage, your enthusiasm, or anything else.

Ways You Have Supported Friends: or, Friends You’ve Supported (but be sure, if you’re planning on showing this online, that your friends are comfortable with whatever you’ve written being made public!) However you offer support for your pals–from comforting them after a break up to sending them articles about starting in their chosen career path to being a designated support person if/when they suffer from stress/breakdown–it’s all unbelievably valuable, and it deserves recognition. People are held together by their communities; you have probably helped more than one person get through a shitty day. That is something to celebrate.

Personal Challenges You Have Faced: an important note on this one. I said ‘faced’, not ‘overcome’. The point isn’t winning over a difficulty, the point is that you had to handle the difficulty in the first place–because tragedy and suffering make us more empathetic, more able to view the rest of the world from a compassionate standpoint. (And besides, if you’re still here, then you ‘overcame’ that challenge in some way anyway.)

Useful Knowledge You Have Transmitted: whether it’s practical skills, like how to make Brussels sprouts taste good, or more philosophical things, like the concept of mindfulness/non-attachment, or silly things that end up sticking for some unknowable reason, like swearing in French, it’s all good to know and now somebody knows it because of you.

Why Should I Write One?

Everybody’s is going to look different–we all value different things in our private lives. The point is to uplift those private celebrations so the public can see they are equally praiseworthy. There is so much work that goes under- or unappreciated; there are so many thankless jobs. We should be a little more grateful for the labour that goes on out of sight. We should be a little more grateful for everything ‘off the record’.

I recognize that this is a tough thing to do–we’ve all been so conditioned to regard certain experiences as valuable and other experiences as less so, or even as worthless. The ‘work/life’ dichotomy is one of my least favourite dichotomies, because it implies that the things you do outside of your ‘job’ can’t count as work. When I say work, I mean your offering to the world. I mean your passions and your gifts, whatever they are. I mean your love letter to the Universe. These things are so precious, and so often denied as anything worth putting on a resume.

Well, I’m going to try it. Over the weekend I’m going to dig into my life and see if I can build my Unconventional Accomplishment Resume, and I invite you to do the same. On Monday (WHO Mental Health Day), I’ll update this post with my resume–I hope to see yours, either in the comments or on social media.

What you do matters! You are important to so many beings on this planet! You are loved so fiercely and tenderly you cannot even fathom it!

Now go try to fathom it!

With love and (unconventional) accomplishment,

~Sisi

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2 thoughts on “In Honour of World Mental Health Day 2016: The Unconventional Accomplishment Resume

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