Collective Care is a written interview series with people who are changing the world. Most often, these folks are working at the intersection of creative, healing, and/or activist work.
I’m in love with the idea of amplifying the work (and self-care practices) of people who are building a more compassionate world. In this series, I get to chat with people who inspire me like whoa.
Today we get to meet Esmé Weijun Wang!
Esmé, take it away…
How are you changing the world?
(What is your change-making, healing, and/or creative work? This might be paid, unpaid or a combination.)
Through writing, mostly, in order to put words to things that aren’t easily or frequently expressed–to help people feel less alone, yes, but to also expand people’s understanding of what exists, of what’s possible. I write books. My debut novel, The Border of Paradise, came out this year, and I have an essay collection about schizophrenia coming out in 2018. I write journalism and personal essays, usually about mental illness or chronic illness.
I also make resources for ambitious people living with limitations. That’s what esmewang.com is about. I provide blog posts, online courses, a free email series of encouraging notes, and so forth; I live with disabling chronic illness, and I know what it’s like to have big dreams and to be afraid that they’re not possible. I work to help people reimagine their circumstances and to work within their constraints.
What challenges your heart in that journey?
Fear, absolutely. I could say illness, but the illness is outsized by fear of losing my capabilities. I’m afraid of despair; despair challenges my heart.
What inspires you to keep going?
The people who tell me that I changed their lives. A woman once wrote to say that she’d read an essay of mine and that it allowed her to understand her schizophrenic father, who was recently deceased. She’d been afraid that she would never be able to understand him, was devastated by his death, and by some miracle, my writing gave that understanding to her. I receive notes and letters and emails that share similar stories. It’s a blessing that surprises me every time.
I have a print on the wall of my office that says, I want to inspire others; I want someone to look at me and say, Because of you, I didn’t give up.
I also have an intense drive for excellence. I’m ferociously ambitious, for better or worse.
How do you support yourself or tend to yourself and your heart in that process?
What nourishes and replenishes you?
Things that support me: my husband and dog; friends; glasses of water; my spiritual practice; books; rest; therapy; my own method of restorative journaling; writing; beautiful things of all kinds.
How do you experience care within community?
How do others support you in your journey and practice?
I helm a private Facebook group that’s associated with the Encouragement Notes; it’s almost 500 people strong now.The people in it call themselves Encouragers, appropriately. And that’s a supportive, generous community that I love.
What’s your best piece of advice you have for people who want to make a difference?
Life is fragile. Show more love, including toward yourself.
Paint us a picture of the more compassionate world and future you imagine.
It’s hard for me to imagine a sort of utopia this way. What is more useful to me is to think of every beautiful, generous act I’ve witnessed. That’s the backbone of that compassionate world and future to me.
Esmé Weijun Wang is the award-winning author of The Border of Paradise: A Novel, with a forthcoming essay collection about schizophrenia. At esmewang.com, she provides resources for ambitious people who live with limitations.
How to connect:
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