Friday, November 17, 2023

Season 2, Episode 23:

Research and Work Reimagined-Finding Freedom in Wellness

In this episode, we are talking with Dr. Courtney McCluney about what it means to reimagine our lives as researchers by finding freedom in our wellness and wholeness.

Season 2, Episode 23: Research and Work Reimagined-Finding Freedom in Wellness

by Dr. Joyee Washington and Dr. Courtney McCluney


Welcome to the Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like: the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way.

I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a Public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In today’s episode, we are talking with Dr. Courtney McCluney about what it means to reimagine our lives as researchers by finding freedom in our wellness and wholeness.

This is where research meets relationship and together, we will find our Public Health Joy!


A precedent of overworking yourself and only resting when you hit burnout in order to work even more has been set in the workplace and it has to change. Today we are joined by the award-winning educator and social scientist, Dr. Courtney McCluney to hear about her research in codeswitching and how she has found freedom in wellness and reimagining how we should work through her company, Equiwell Partners Group. With a Ph.D. in psychology, Courtney has made it her mission to prioritize her own well-being as part of her ability to produce good work and hopes that her research will help other people do the same. In this episode, we talk about code-switching, what it entails, how it relates to Black people in the workplace, why it is not restful work, how it affects public health, and so much more! We are reminded that it is okay to remove yourself from work environments that do not serve you and that your work should bring you joy. Thanks for tuning in! 

To connect with Dr. Courtney McCluney:

Dr. Courtney McCluney

Dr. Courtney McCluney on LinkedIn

Dr. Courtney McCluney on X

Dr. Courtney McCluney on TikTok

EquiWell Partners Group

Links mentioned in this episode: 

Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto

The Nap Ministry

Tabitha Brown

For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit

Key Points

  • Introducing today’s guest, Dr. Courtney McCluney. [0:52]
  • Courtney tells us about her professional journey and what she strives to accomplish. [02:40]
  • Our guest’s mission to make individual wellness the most important part of business. [04:29]
  • What codeswitching is; particularly in the workplace amongst Black people. [13:50]
  • The link between public health issues and codeswitching. [19:00]
  • The importance of moving away from work environments that do not serve you. [26:47]
  • Why work environments should prioritize employees’ well-being and bring joy. [33:36]
  • What brings Courtney joy in her work at the moment. [36:41]

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[0:00:52] JW: Welcome to another great episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast. Today, we have Dr. Courtney L. McCluney, who is an award-winning educator and social scientist and is also the foremost expert on workplace inclusion, and codeswitching. So, we got a lot to talk about y’all.

But I want to say first, before I have Dr. McCluney introduce herself is that when we met, we met in like this virtual webinar, and was on the colonization of the researcher training. I remember being in it, it was my first one, first training of that kind. I don’t know if it’s like in-person spaces and virtual spaces, but you’re always looking for the person who looks like you. You’re always looking for the other Black in the room. I know I saw your picture on your Zoom square, and I was like, “Cool. I’m not the only Black person in the here.” We were talking and sharing, and I was listening to you. And I was like, “Oh, yes. She sounds like my kind of person.” Then, I’m like trying to follow you on LinkedIn during the training and do all this stuff. And then at the same time, you were trying to get with me on LinkedIn.

[0:02:06] CM: Exactly.

[0:02:09] JW: It was like we were connecting spirits there. So, I was super excited, and I was like, “We got to talk. We got to take this outside of this training to talk a little bit.” That’s always a super fun thing, and always an interesting thing when you’re being Black. I think it’s just a Black thing You’re looking for the people in the room who look like you and making the connection. So, with that being said, why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about who you are, your journey, what you do, all the things?

[0:02:40] CM: Yes. Oh, my gosh. It has been a journey. I will start by saying that. But maybe let’s start with where I am now and how I got here. So, right now, I would describe myself as someone who is an independent researcher, thinker, person who’s trying to continue to learn and absorb different ways of doing research and of being part of research communities, what it means to be a researcher, to be a designer, all these new terms that are emerging, and also doing that from a place of wholeness and wellness. I feel like those are the two forms of being that I strive to accomplish every day.

It’s like, how am I whole in this moment, in this day, or the end of this day? Am I taking care of myself? Am I being well? And how do I spread that message and those practices to others, how do I take what I’m learning and continue to spread that out? I do that in a couple of ways. I would consider myself a multi-hyphenate contributor to trying to create more equity and justice and wellness in the world. I do that through some part-time and freelancer affiliations with Cornell University with, TMI consulting, as a writer to several outlets, but also through my own venture, the EquiWell Partners Group. And then what we’re trying to do there is help organizations reimagine work, but also help individuals reimagine work so that they are working from a place of rest and not just working so that they can get to rest on the other side. I got there.

[0:04:09] JW: I mean, just seeping all in, I’m just like, work from a place of risk. That being somebody’s job description, like we want you to work and fulfill your responsibilities from a place of risk, and wholeness, and wellness. Whose job description is it? Whose company profile –

[0:04:28] CM: That’s new goal. I need to see companies reporting the numbers of how many hours that their employees had high-quality sleep at night, not your outputs. It’s like can we literally flip this idea on its head that wellness is just an individual endeavor? It’s a systemic endeavor. It’s a right that we deserve as beings, people who are alive, beings are alive, I want to expand that to our world. All of it deserves to be well. So, how are we creating and designing systems and realities that reflect this rights that we have be well? I mean, I got to that point of making that part of my life’s mission and work through experiencing lots of years of not being well, and continuing through cycles of burnout, and recovering just enough to go back into that same burnout cycle and thinking overwork is normal, is expected, is something that is just part of the work essentially, that in order for me to do this work, in an academic institution on the tenure track, as a grad student, as a postdoc, that being burned out and tired and getting sick, at the end of semester, that those things were just normal.

It reached a pinnacle moment in the middle of the pandemic when I’m questioning all of life, and what this means to have had such an individual pursuit of what it is that I thought I wanted to do in the world, and realizing that we are all in this together. Unless, there’s some collective shifts happening, that we as individuals can only go so far with any of our work and pursuits. I still remember that day and moment where I had this this panic attack in the middle of working and just feeling the sense of overwhelm, the sense of, “What am I doing? And why am I doing it this way? This can’t be right.”

So, I went through a mourning period of the loss of identity, of a vision, of a path, I thought I was on with becoming a professor, that’s also such a liberating experience too. It’s like, well, if I don’t hold on to this very rigid, narrow expectation of what a professor is, or does. I am free to now choose and design, and reimagine who it is that I want to be, and how I want to show up in the world. The very first thing I was like, I need a nap. That was the first thing I needed to do when I fall asleep and allow myself to dream of who I could be, and that has just been the most liberating, as I said, journey, and something that I want everyone to experience.

Yes, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate that in all the work that I do from that training of the social sciences, of a background sake. I got my Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Michigan. And while there, I was heavily involved with creating this group called the RacismLab, and it’s a lot of researchers from across the social sciences, including Public Health Scholars. We were trying to understand how it is that cultural and systemic racism is affecting the health and wellbeing of Black and Brown communities in our country, and really around the globe. My primary focus on that was understanding the workplace and the various ways that work organizations are also contributing to an impacting our health and wellbeing.

So, I can send you to bring that lens into a lot of the things that I’m contributing to now both of my own work, but also as I try to partner with others, and thinking about the work that they do. Yes, that’s who I am, where I’ve been. I’m sure I could share more, but we will be here for days if I kept going.

[0:07:59] JW: Okay. Might have a multi-episode, multi-series podcast. But what you say it just really resonated with me because I went through something very similar. Prior to the pandemic, I’m looking at higher education, like, you are not giving what I thought you were going to during this time. What are you doing? And is this what I want from my life? I don’t think so. Can I choose a different path? And what does that different path look like? Because when you’re going through the grad school process, especially the Ph.D. route, most of us are set on being a professor. That’s just what we know. So, to think about what does it look like to like you say, dream, choose a different path, and experience the freedom. Now, that freedom and liberation can be scary at first. It’s scary now. We’re not going to lie. We’re not going to lie to you. It’s is scary. But I tell people all the time, it’s the best decision I ever made. The absolute best decision I’ve ever made because now, I get to take a nap between two to four every day.

[0:09:05] CM: Amen. 

[0:09:07] JW: I have built that into my schedule. It’s perfect. It works for me because now, I can prioritize my rest and my wellbeing as a part of the work that I do. That has been so important and so fulfilling for me and I get to experience and build the workplace environment for myself that I never had. 

[0:09:33] CM: Absolutely. 

[0:09:34] JW: It’s just something that I never thought that I would have the opportunity to experience, and a lot of what you were saying, I recently was reading the book, Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey, who’s also the Bishop of The Nap Ministry. If y’all haven’t heard of The Nap Ministry, you need to check them out. It’s just – I am in church with The Nap Ministry every day, at the Nap altar, for sure.

So, in the book, I remember reading, there was a question, imagine a world without oppression. I was like, “Do I dare to go there?” It’s just an automatically halt. That’s something I’ve never considered. What would the world look like without oppression? And thinking about the fact that we have been conditioned to believe that we have to work like machines? And machines, we are not.

[0:10:36] CM: Exactly.

[0:10:38] JW: We’re just continuing to work ourselves, work ourselves to exhaustion, to frustration, to burnout, and this concept that we are not resting to be more productive. We are resting because we want to rest.

[0:10:55] CM: Yes, that is a fundamental shift. Yes.

[0:10:59] JW: That is the mindset shift there. I’m not resting so I can do more work. I’m not resting so I can attend more meetings. I’m not resting so that I can get more clients. I am resting because my body says, “Girl, we ain’t doing nothing today.” I don’t have to have a reason. I don’t need a reason to rest. I don’t need a reason to take a nap. I don’t need a reason to enjoy my time on this earth. I can spend it how I want to because that’s my right.

[0:11:29] CM: Exactly. That shift, that right there, that we’re not resting to be more productive, I feel like that has sat with me for seems like forever now. But for as long as I’ve been actively trying to pursue wellness, even that can become a form of labor, right? I have to get X number of steps. I have to work out X number of times per week. I have to make sure I’m sleeping eight hours, and that becomes the new thing that we’re conditioned to strive for. So, even reimagining goals, like reimagining what does it mean to just exist and be? I feel like the last time I was open and bold enough to question everyday conditioning was when I was an adolescent, pre-adolescent. Going back to that time in my life before I was aware of all these expectations that have been placed upon me, or aware of like adulting. Adulting sucks.

[0:12:27] JW: Adulting is trash. Adulthood is the worst hood. I don’t want it.

[0:12:33] CM: Oh, my God. I don’t know why I was rushing to get here. But I remember that pre-life and shout out to my parents. They’re really did create an environment where my brother and I got to enjoy a lot of life. We didn’t feel like adults, at a young age, and that was really wonderful. And that was the last time I think I really felt unencumbered by feeling like everything I do has to be towards something tangible, measurable, something that’s contributing to my degrees, my credentials, my income. What does it mean to just exist and be from that place? Period. And just be you know who you are, and playing with that, and experiencing joy in that, pleasure in that.

Shout out to young Courtney. Young, Courtney held on to those dreams, and she journaled a lot. So, even getting back into some of those practices that I did as a child, I think has really helped with continuing on this journey of resting to rest and resting as resistance, and letting go of those ideas that rest always has to be tied to productivity.

[0:13:37] JW: Yes. I also think about – I mentioned about your work in codeswitching earlier, and before I share my thoughts, could you explain for us, for those who may not know, what is codeswitching?

[0:13:50] CM: Yes. It’s a lot of things right. It came out of linguistics studies, and it was the literal meaning was switching between languages. But social psychologists, and look, I didn’t even give them that credit. Social anthropologists were realizing that as groups were interacting with each other, it’s more than just switching language. It was switching formality, tone, mannerisms, and switching all sorts of behaviors because we’re interacting with someone new and we need something from them. We need to figure out a way to communicate this.

Present day, the way my colleagues and I have been studying codeswitching in the workplace amongst Black people who are underrepresented, historically excluded, and marginalized, especially by these corporate workspaces. The way we define codeswitching is that as a strategy to help you successfully navigate various interactions in situations that require you to downplay and minimize the aspects of yourself that are not valued in those spaces. And as a Black person, that is everything from our physical aesthetics and features which are almost always associated with things like being perceived as militant or incompetent or having natural hair. Or being perceived as a threat for being tall. Or just being perceived as less attractive for our various physical features that are mostly from people of the African diaspora.

In corporate spaces, in particular, those features are not valued. So, what codeswitching allows you to do is figure out how can I minimize this aspect of myself, and my culture, that’s not valued here, and instead switch on a persona, a way of speaking, even a name that better resonates with the people who are around me. I’m doing that to achieve an outcome that I want, whether it’s I need to get this job, I need to land this client, I need to impress my boss, whatever it is, I need to make sure that how I’m presenting myself aligns with the image and ideal worker that they have in their minds.

Unfortunately, for a lot of Black people around the world, that is not tied to Black culture. It is things that we have associated in terms of our professionalism norms, our norms of what it means to be successful, or a leader, have the executive presence, or almost always derived from white culture. Everything from what it looks like, to what it sounds like, to what interest people take, what music they prefer, like all of those things. So, codeswitching is that strategy of being able to switch on that voice and that way of doing things, so that you can better manage that impression you have with people you work with. Sometimes even outside of work, it’s things like how we interact with police officers, where you try to switch on a very calm demeanor, so that you can survive that interaction.

Yes. There’s a lot of outcomes associated with codeswitching, but we can go there. I’m curious to hear your thoughts, when you hear that term codeswitching, what does it do to you and for you?

[0:16:41] JW: I think in the context of when we’re talking about risk when I thought about codeswitching. I was like codeswitching is hard. It’s work. It is not a restful practice. If I have to consistently change who I am at my core, that is not a restful practice. One of the things that – and I have been in – I went to a PWI for undergrad. I spent high school in a predominantly White school as well, going through 12th grade in a predominantly White school. Most of the schools I attended for grad school were also predominantly White. So, I think I wasn’t as conscious that that’s what I was doing. But I know there’s what I was doing, was codeswitching.

Now, that I’m not in those spaces as much, now that I’m in the entrepreneur life, I’m on my Instagram and I’m playing a DMX in my stories. You know what I’m saying? I’m playing a trap called Quick and Walk, and Take It or Leave It because it’s my fate. I’m doing what I want to do. I’m saying y’all all the time, I’m not changing who I am. You either like me or you don’t. You have the freedom to leave just as much as I have the freedom to be myself.

I think a lot about Tabitha Brown. So, for those who may not know, Tabitha Brown is amazing. There is no other time for Tabitha Brown. She’s just amazing. Social media influencer, vegan influencer, and she shows up authentically. I think that’s the thing. Codeswitching does not allow you to show up authentically. So, she has spoken about that, and she actually has a T-shirt. I think it says, “Freedom from codeswitching.” She has talked about that openly because she is from the South as well. I think she’s from North Carolina.

[0:18:38] CM: Yes, North Carolina.

[0:18:41] JW: So, as I’m showing up social media and the things that the trolls, the internet trolls that come after her on the way she talks, and how she speaks, and the way she comes across. And do y’all know how successful Tabitha Brown is?

[0:18:55] CM: Listen –

[0:18:56] JW: And she ain’t codeswitching.

[0:19:00] CM: I love a lot of what you were sharing, especially around the freedom piece, I think that’s a big one, And I have a shirt that says, “I’m too tired to codeswitch.” Because one of the things we found in our research, and this even has like public health implications, some of this new work that we just got funded, codeswitching is exhausting, as you were saying. It’s effortful. And anytime you’re engaging in that additional effort, that’s cognitive overload, that’s mental overload, and it’s physically exhausting and taxing.

I think about Black women in particular, like when I was in college, I remember going through etiquette classes and preparation for grad school and interviews. Some of the things that the very well-meaning of older Black woman in my life, were suggesting straightening my hair. Straightening your hair is professional and it’s necessary to get a job. I don’t think people realize how exhausting it is as a black woman to find someone, get that appointment, sit in those salons, or go through the process of finding the right products and finding the time to straighten your hair and then being concerned about whether or not the elements are going to let your hair be great. Or are you going to show up with a low fuss.

Not to mention, like, there’s been new studies linking uterine cancer rates to use of chemical relaxers in our hair. So, when we talk about like public health issues, and codeswitching, I was like, “It’s right there.” It’s direct linkages to the behaviors we feel that we have to engage in, order to just be taken seriously, to get the same opportunities everyone else. It is physically costing us not to mention emotionally taxing. I think one of the things I’m doing less of, less of the codeswitching is way less explaining what the hell is going on with me as a Black person. I’m not explaining how I got my hair in the state. I’m not explaining why I say the things that I do. I’m not explaining who Cardi B is. I’m not explaining that. Go figure it out for yourself.

That freedom to be like, even for – this is something that my colleagues and I, we debate back and forth all the time. Or not debate, but we constantly have to remind ourselves. Black people are also not a monolith. So, when we talk about codeswitching in that White work environment, we’re almost always talking about shifting away from things that had been associated with Black culture, to things that had been associated with White culture. But Black people created rock and roll. Black people created country music. Black people created pop music.

So, when you meet Black people who like Paramore, and like care, whatever type of music, then codeswitching is sometimes to “more Black”, because they’ve also experienced that other side of it, sometimes from other Black people, but even from non-black folks that say, I’m blacker than you. Or you acting White, and I had definitely gotten that accusation before most from Black people, but also from non-Black people. And I’m like, “You don’t even know what the hell it means to be Black. So, how are you going to tell me how to be Black?”

So, to have that freedom to not have to worry about, like all those steps I mentioned, for that whole hair straightening process, on top of preparing for an interview, or whatever the hell else you got going on. Like you said, Tabitha Brown is successful. We can be successful in these spaces, without feeling like we have to be anybody else than who we already are. That just creates like, I don’t know how it’s been for you on your entrepreneurial journey. But I find myself so much more creative about what I uniquely bring to the table and can contribute in these spaces when I’m unencumbered by feeling like I can’t be myself. Because I know what I bring to the table now. And I know that when you’re asking for these things if that is or is not me. Maybe that’s not – I’m not who you should be working with. Maybe you should be working with someone else. But I don’t know. Have you felt yourself being more creative or engaged when you don’t have to do as much of the codeswitching?

[0:22:45] JW: Yes. I will say most definitely because there are lots of things in my experience. Like I said, things from my youth, things from my childhood, that now I get to bring into the work that I do, even with podcasting. I mean, so from a young age, I was doing like – we would have oratorical contests at church, right? When you’re doing Easter speeches and doing all kinds of stuff, so I’ve been speaking publicly since I was young. And then when I was in high school, high school, I was on the speech and debate team. Using my voice as a gift for podcasting for my work, for my entrepreneurial efforts, I find that having that freedom from codeswitching allows me to convey a message that I may not get to convey otherwise.

I’m from the south. I’m from Mississippi. Sometimes I sound real country. Okay. I just do. Sometimes, it just comes out and I can’t control it. Sometimes I don’t always hear it. And especially when I’m talking to other people, and people always like, “You have such a southern accent.” I’m like, “I don’t hear it.”

[0:24:03] CM: I’m from the south.

[0:24:04] JW: I don’t know what you’re talking about. What else do you expect? Yes, I’m from the south. So, It allows me to think about how can I keep that authenticity, and how can I get to understand myself more. What are those things like public speaking and participating in oratorical contests and speech and debate? How can I bring those things that shaped me into where I am in my life today? And how is that going to help me understand the person who I am, the person who I was, and the person that I am becoming?

[0:24:40] CM: I love that.

[0:24:41] JW: Because it’s all a part of it.

[0:24:43] CM: It totally is. I think like that’s that feeling of wellness. One of the things that I include, as part of that definition is like you’re free to be yourself, and you’re free to evolve and grow. I think a lot of folks try to hold us to who we were or try to keep us in these bubbles of well, you have your Ph.D., you’re supposed to X, Y, Z, whatever they attach to having a Ph.D. You’re not supposed to talk like that anymore. You’re supposed to use correct grammar, blah, blah. Instead of having like, you just lack linguistics savviness. Rather than see it as a deficit in me that I still use the words, y’all and speak with my southern idioms, that instead, you just lack the linguistic vocabulary and expansiveness and range to understand what I’m saying.

Instead, we need to make more room for everyone to be themselves, and all the systems and spaces that we create, right? It’s like, how can I make room for you to be you, and me to be me, and us to be well together, while we’re doing whatever it is that we’re pursuing? That is a question I want more people, company, they need to ask themselves that. And especially, that part about who you’re becoming. I think that’s huge. Do we allow room for people to grow and learn and change and embrace that change? Yes, that’s powerful.

[0:26:01] JW: Yes. And I think about prior to becoming an entrepreneur, walking into a room full of academics, or researchers, or whatever. I might walk into a room then and say, “Oh, well, I don’t believe that this is going to work for this reason, A, B, and C.” Now, as, I’m going to use your term, as a recovering academic, now, I can walk into a room and say, “Uh-uh, I ain’t doing it.” I feel completely comfortable, completely comfortable, just walking in the room saying, “Look, I don’t know what y’all got going on. But I ain’t doing it.” And leaving it on the table. Leaving it there. I don’t have to explain any further. I say what I said. If you didn’t understand what I said, you can figure it out.

[0:26:47] CM: Listen, I’ve never felt so free from detaching myself from that particular role and lane and I promise you, when I envisioned my life, six months from now, a year from now, five years from now, it is how can I continue to work less and less in spaces where I feel like I cannot be my true self. It’s like, how can I let go of all of those spaces? And not just working but like even where and how I choose to spend my time. It’s like there are certain friends or even family and locations that we’ve tied ourselves to, that are not part of who we are, who were coming, just because we’re related, I mean, we got to stay in touch.

There’s some like – and just because we knew each other, back when I was in this space, doesn’t mean – there’s a lot of folks that I haven’t heard from since I was like, I need to get out of academia, and that is totally okay. If that’s the only way that you want to interact with me, is by me being attached to this institution, or having this particular role. Now, that that’s not there, then you don’t see the need to connect with me. Totally fine. That’s way less people I got to keep track of.

So yes, I’m a big fan of, like, continuing to move and be in spaces that fit us. There is a narrative in there around quitting. I remember when that whole quiet quitting moment was happening, and I was just like, why do people feel they have to stay somewhere forever? What’s so bad about quitting? I am totally down for like, “Oh, this doesn’t serve me. I’m not doing that, like move on.”

[0:28:24] JW: Same. I tell people all time, being an entrepreneur, the longest job I ever had. Because I will not stay in a place. I have literally, literally walked in to workplaces on the first day and said, “I won’t be here long. I’m going to have my season. I’m going to learn what I need to learn.” And as soon as I get the okay to get out of here, and I know my season is up, I’m leaving. I have literally done it and have said that, just from experiencing the first day.

[0:28:59] CM: I love that though. You have to know yourself so well to be able to walk into a space and know this is what I’m here for and this is what I’m not here for. I want people to have more time to figure out who they are so that they can better make decisions like that. I don’t know about you, but pursuing entrepreneurial work has certainly deepened this understanding of who I am as a person. Not only how I like to work or prefer to work, but what lights me up, what brings me joy, and also what frustrates the hell out of me. Let me delegate that. Or, I’m just not going to do that. I love speaking and podcast hosting, and I manifest like, that’s going to come one day. I don’t like putting presentations together. I realized it’s like, “Oh, I really don’t enjoy this.” So, how can I figure out – that helps me figure out where’s the need? Where’s the capacity? Instead of feeling like I got to do all the things.

[0:29:50] JW: I think it’s a constant process of critical thinking and critical reflection, and asking yourself is this serve in me well? Is this experience serving me well? Is this person serving me well? Is this job serving me well? Is this workplace serving me well? Because a lot of times, you might love the job. Just the workplace that’s so toxic. So really, having that critical reflection and asking yourself that question, is this serving me well, and if it is not. Being okay to let it go. You don’t have to hold on to that government job for 20 years if it’s not serving you well, honey. You don’t have to. You can make a different choice.

[0:30:42] CM: Listen, when they talk about – part of this reimagining work journey in addition to like creating room for wellness, this is also creating room for people to be flexible. Tying things like healthcare and health insurance, and retirement benefits to one job, makes zero sense to me. Because like you said, it means how willing are you to endure the hardships and the toxicity that’s associated with this workplace. So, you see people saying as being loyal, not them being locked in or stuck. It’s like, the way they describe tenure in academia is like these golden handcuffs, right? It’s like, yes, it looks nice. Shout out to you [inaudible 0:31:16], you’ve exceeded these expectations, and you’ve achieved this goal, and you’re stuck. Because now, you’re into retirement is like invested in this institution, and it being successful means that you get to have a quality of life.

That is that hard, ridiculous model we’ve imagined for ourselves. We can imagine better. I’m excited to see more creative strategies to separate 401(k) processes and the separate healthcare routes that we can take. I am saying, I’m very privileged that I have a spouse who enjoys his work and life [inaudible 0:31:49]. So, I tagged my house right onto his health insurance. But at any point, I’ve been very transparent with him too. Like, at any point, if you’re like, this isn’t working for me anymore, we will figure something else out. I don’t want either of us to be stuck in a place where we are unhappy, and going through the motions of the work as we feel like we can’t leave.

[0:32:11] JW: Yes. It’s such a different shift when you focus on the things that bring you joy. The things that bring you joy, the things that bring you healing, versus, “Oh, I just need to work a job. I just need to get the money.” That’s exhausting. That thought process is exhausting. I’m not going to lie. Being an entrepreneur, I don’t make the amount of money. Sometimes I do miss that paycheck every month. I mean, I do miss it. But I think about all the things that I gain by being an entrepreneur and doing the work that I love, and that I can prioritize that joy and healing over just trying to get the paycheck and make the bills, and do whatever my boss wants, and try to meet the demands of the employer. 

Yes, I’m like, I’m not for that life anymore. I’m just not. I don’t think I could ever go back to a nine-to-five. I’m not going to say never, because I mean, you never know what might happen, and I might have to, or whatever. But I don’t think I could. I’m going to do everything. I said, if this business doesn’t work, I’m going to have to make some cookies. I’m going to have to bake some cookies. I’m going to have to do something. I’m going to have to figure it out because I cannot go back to a nine-to-five. I’m going to have to figure out – I’m going to have to find my grandma’s secret recipe, something. I just hate to leave.

[0:33:36] CM: What you’re pointing out to, again, that limited imagination that the people who have been in power for a long time, have come up with work. It has created this reality where people attach work to – like work means so much in their whole lives. You don’t know who you are until you find your work passion. Or how will you make friends if you’re not at work. Work is supposed to designate like, where you live. Work has become a center of so many of our lives, instead of things like joy, instead of things like what makes you smile, what makes you happy.

I think about the folks who have hobbies and the people who is super passionate about their hobbies or what they volunteer to do, they may think of work as providing the resources for me to now do the thing that I’m passionate about. Workplaces also need to be okay with that. They tried to label it quiet quitting when people were literally just doing their jobs. I’m like, if you want people to exceed above and beyond, you need to bring out some above-and-beyond money. Some above-and-beyond benefits and resources like everybody having regular mandated paid time off, not one or two days here, but months at a time. Like four-day workweek, six-hour workdays. There are ways for you to get from people what it is that you want, by also providing them with realistic working conditions. We can’t even get safe work environments, let alone work environments that are trying to contribute to our holistic well-being.

I remember saying this over a quarter. one time, I forget which like article they were writing. But I was saying, we need to spend less time at work. They were like, “Oh, well, what about people who are feeling lonely and isolated? Don’t they need that connection?” I’m like, this is where neighborhoods come into play. This is where you shouldn’t have to leave where you grew up for better opportunities because a better opportunity should exist everywhere you find yourself. It’s like, where I find myself, there I am, and there are the conditions in society that allowed me to be my best self. And if we don’t have that, which we clearly don’t, then that’s the work that needs to be done. That’s the work that needs to be done in this specific town, in this specific city, this specific state, so that everyone can – like work can be just one of many choices that you’re making about your life, not the choice between life or death, the longevity, the security of life. That being tied to work is so dangerous, because that gives all the power to employers who have clearly made it known the last few years. They don’t give flying anything about the wellbeing and health of their work. And they were placing you so fast as if you were to die, and yes, that’s one thing I learned and why I’ll never go back to nine to five. It’s like, I’m super replaceable. Why am I here giving my all when they will replace me in a day?

[0:36:19] JW: Yes. Your workplace should be one of those things that another source of joy versus the only place that doesn’t give you joy. We have to start shifting that. So, in saying that, I have one last question for you, as you get ready to wrap up, which is what brings you joy in your work?

[0:36:41] CM: My work these days, what brings me joy, is really when I get to connect with the folks who are desiring and or in the middle of practicing their needs to be well, and their needs for rest for recovery, for getting into flow, whatever it is that is part of their work that they’re doing, or trying to pursue. When I get to see them express that interest or awakening after a brief meditation exercise, we’re just seeing how relaxed and calm everyone feels after we do some breath work together. Those moments remind me that this work is important and meaningful and that brings me so much joy to know that there are people in companies who are trying to do better in this regard and spread and disseminate more joy and more wellness in the world.

And to see them creating space for their employees, to participate in these trainings, to go to these workshops, have sustained long-term engagement. It’s like shifting the work culture all around. Those moments are like, “Ah, this is why I’m doing this work.” That and designing my life around my menstrual cycle. When I bought my cycle, I am not working and producing. I am resting and relaxing and doing what I need to do. When you don’t work against your body, your body will be there for you. It’s like, “Oh, we got to rest for a whole, however long that cycle is.” Now, this week, we got some energy. We can go do some things. You know that in a couple of weeks, we’ll come back to this place and just to be in that rhythm and harmony with my life and with my body and not feeling like I’m working against it all the time, that brings me so much joy.

It’s like, “Ah, yes. I don’t have to fight against myself. Myself needs to rest, to put up some boundaries, to say no, and I can.” Joy. That’s the best joy. That’s being the authentic self too. I get to be fully authentic. Like, I need a nap, and I can go take it. Oh, my body’s like, “Girl, we love each other. We love you. We are all here together.”

[0:38:45] JW: Yes. I love that. I love my body, and my body is loving me. We only get one. So, we got to take care of it. Got to take care of it.

[0:38:56] CM: All the way.

[0:38:56] JW: Yes. So, if people would like to connect with you, how do they do that? How do they get in touch?

[0:39:03] CM: Yes. So, I do have a couple of websites out there. One is my personal page. It’s Through there, you can find links to some of my other words and connection. Then, my business work is That website also has links to all my social pages, just at EquiWell Partners, and there you’ll see like postings and upcoming events, but also reminders of when I’m hibernating. Like what I’m doing next in the month of July and several points that I can share. It’s like, “Oh, I’m offline. I’m resting. You won’t see me. But you can look at some of the things I’ve done in the past.” That’s where you can find me.

[0:39:44] JW: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for engaging in this conversation and it has been such a joy, and this was a restful conversation for me. It didn’t even feel like work at all. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to chat with you and this will wrap up another episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast.


[0:40:07] JW: I am so grateful for this time we got to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit This is where research meets relationship. I’ll see you next time on The Public Health Joy Podcast. 


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