This is a guest post written by Taylor Deckant, Program Manager at Smile Project HQ. Taylor lives life by the motto "Dream Big" and is always trying to find ways to give back. She always finds the good in people and is very happy to contribute to a movement she truly believes in.
Liz (Smile Project Founder) asked me during my intro Q&A what service meant to me. My answer was something along the lines of, "giving when your cup is overflowing. Giving all of your extra." You can't give if your cup is running low.
I've been struggling with my mental health lately, as a lot of us have been. My cup is not full right now and it is really affecting me because my personality is deeply rooted in acts of giving and selflessness. It's hard for me to be selfless when I do not like how I am feeling. It's hard to be kind to others when I'm not being kind to myself. I felt like just existing during this time was not enough because there is so much I could be doing and so many people who need my help! But sometimes I need reminded of my own advice: I can't give if my cup is empty.
There's something in singing and wind instrument playing known as staggered breathing. It allows the group to play or sing a solid, lengthy note without the audience hearing breath gaps in said note. I haven't been around my clarinet since 2011 but there are some things you don't forget; staggered breathing is one of them. (The taste of a reed is another).
Each person in the group knows when it is their turn to breathe. They slowly fade out, take a deep breath, and slowly enter back into the note to allow the next person to take their breath. This allows the note to sound whole and sustained but gives the musician a much needed break. The note can be held longer and sounds better because multiple people are working towards the same goal. This is something that can be applied throughout all of life and I didn't realize it until I crawled into bed feeling even more defeated than I have in the last two weeks.
There will be times where you need to take your breath in order to come back strong and allow others to take their break. Take your break. Take your deep breath and know that this act, though it may feel selfish, is the biggest act of kindness you are capable of giving. Be kind to yourself, replenish your cup, and know that when you are ready to rejoin the group, they will be there holding the note steady for you to rejoin.