It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been only a week since my activity on social media erupted in the wake of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers and civilians shot in Dallas. It’s been a long week.
I’d written a Facebook status welcoming my peers to “open a healthy line of dialogue” with me in regards to my activism-related posts should they disagree with them. Lord knows (and so does everyone on Facebook who’s seen my posts in their news feeds) I have certainly been engaged in such dialogues since. The last week has been absolutely jam-packed with long conversations both online and offline, public and private. These conversations have consisted of me attempting to defend my beliefs, successfully and excitingly reaching people and providing them with new insights, disagreeing with some but happily finding satisfactory common ground, and, least frequently (thankfully) but most exhausting of all, having to leave a conversation in a disagreement as a last resort.
I started out empowered and ready to go, fueled with anger and passion from the most recent injustices–but after a few days, I reached a level of exhaustion that I fervently needed to address. I haven’t been eating or sleeping well at all thanks to all of this and also making it a priority over my internship as well as tech week and opening weekend for the musical I’m in (but I’m not complaining, nor am I saying that seeking pity or congratulations). My mom worries I’m “too” emotionally invested, but at least she agrees that that’s not necessarily a bad thing when this is what I feel called to do.
Indeed, I feel called to speak on these issues, but much to my own dismay, I’m unable to do it 24/7. I find myself literally having to remind myself that I am human. And so, that’s what I’m trying to reconcile right now: the fire I have for these issues and my very real humanness. I’m incredibly disappointed that my body doesn’t keep up with the fire very well. I worry I compromise my integrity as an activist when having to take a break, especially after having written some very charged Facebook statuses disavowing my privilege to do so. But I need to keep in mind the very advice I’d given someone else: I have a responsibility to take care of myself in order to successfully carry out the responsibility I have to continue entertaining these conversations (see “5 Self Care Tips for Activists”). My heart breaks for those who don’t have the same privilege that I do to unplug and take care of themselves when exhausted like this. No wonder mental and physical health issues are more prevalent among impoverished, marginalized minority communities.
I’m also struggling with trying to cut myself some slack when having to say, “Let’s agree to disagree.” That phrase sometimes feels like a surrender, and it irritates me that some really could see it that way, but there comes a point where anger becomes unhealthy and I have to address that first before I continue on. I am constantly reminding myself that this anger is also valid. I am angry for my personal experiences. I am angry for that of my friends’ because I believe them–I believe what they’re saying, and I’m fighting for them to be heard, too. My friend put it best when addressing someone else with whom I was speaking:
[T]he only reason you can always stay calm and rational in a debate is because you’re not fighting to be heard and invalidated at every second. . . . of course you will not understand our experiences. [M]aybe in your eyes, being disconnected from these issues makes you rational and objective and valuable to the conversation. . . . it’s exhausting, absolutely exhausting, to argue these things and have your personal experiences invalidated.
I’ve been able to stay calm and rational myself for the most part in the past few days, and I’m grateful to my friends who have noticed and given me a pat on the back for it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason I’m so exhausted now is because it’s taking me everything I have not to be calm and rational when I am so overwhelmed by the grief or anger or passion that accompanies empathy and allyship.
To share a quote from another friend who provided me with so much comfort in my ensuing exhaustion (and the associated guilt trip I was putting myself through),
Of course you’re going to get tired. It’s expected. Being tired does not make you weak. Being tired does not make you less of an advocate. Being tired is only an indicator that you’re working hard. And that’s a good thing.
Saying “Let’s agree to disagree” is hardly ever, on my end, a concession of defeat, but rather only a recognition that the conversation is not going anywhere, and that to force it to go any further would result in consequences worse than the “benefit” of keeping the conversation going. While I won’t always reach people successfully, I need to find comfort in the possibility that I’m still planting seeds. I need to find respite in the support system I have around me. I need to retain the incredible words of encouragement I’ve received over the last few days. I need to keep that all in mind for my own well-being, my own sanity, and, upon maintaining that good health, for what I’ll be able to successfully contribute to the movements for which I am so passionate.
Featured image from weheartit.com