Hersey makes the point that a go-go-go approach to working can easily veer into toxicity—opting instead to uphold rest as a vital, potentially freeing, and politically energizing activity for all. In a culture that often seems obsessed with output, Hersey is more focused on the inner calm and self-knowledge that can come with proper rest—by which she means “naps, sleep, slowing down and leisure in a capitalist, white supremacist, patriarchal world”—and on investigating who has traditionally been denied that rest and its myriad benefits. Recently, Vogue spoke to Hersey about extolling the virtues of rest through a lens of Blackness, writing and parenting during COVID, and the importance of slowing down. Read the full interview below.
Tricia Hersey: I’m ready for it to be out on the shelves so that people can engage with it, and it can have its own life. I want it to be studied, given as a gift, or just have people sit with it so they can have an experience with the idea of rest and resistance and have a companion and collaborator with them on their rest journey. When I began to experiment with rest and the whole idea of the Nap Ministry, really. I started divinity school in 2013, and the pace of it was so fast and there was so much going on, I began to just lay down; I was stressed, I was exhausted, I was overwhelmed with the workload and with other things in my life. Resting became an experimentation for me, to try to save my life from these feelings of exhaustion and disconnection. 2013 is when I decided that I was no longer going to align myself with society’s pace, and I was just going to slow down my life and let the chips fall where they may.
Our Instagram page grew by probably 100,000 people when the pandemic first started, and people were more online and slowing down. We have been doing this work—I started it in 2016—so COVID didn’t really affect my theories or ideas or conversations about rest, but people decided to join in because they were home, they were exhausted, and our message was a breath of fresh air. My work started in Atlanta as something very grassroots and community-driven—you know, working with people on the ground at rest events—and the main thing that changed was that we weren’t able to meet in person anymore.
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