As much as I love writing and activism, I don’t particularly like the effects of caring about those things. The biggest one I’m dealing with right now is burnout.
Imagine it’s finals week, you’ve got three tests a day all week, you’re super prepared and ace all of them. You’re running on sugar and caffeine and just a few hours of sleep. Add onto that issues in your personal life. Fighting with your relatives, relationship problems, drama with your friends. Now imagine those finals would help determine whether or not your school would stay open, or whether higher education would be eradicated completely.
That is the life of an activist.
Most of the time, we win individual battles. That’s passing the test.
Sometimes we lose a debate or make a bad argument. That’s failing the test.
Our personal health occasionally gets neglected, and those days we’re most productive are the days when we’ve got caffeine and sugar running through us at near lethal levels.
No sleep. You lay in bed kicking yourself because you worded something wrong and it’s too late to take it back and going over every argument you made tearing it apart so thoroughly that you know that none of your opponents will ever manage to deflate them so much.
Personal relationships suck when you’re an activist. Not like “eh some people in my life don’t agree with me” sucks. More like “yeah my parents think I’m the devil and my best friend thinks I ought to burn in hell” sucks. When you’re in a relationship, the strain is there. Exceptions happen when there’s someone in your life who legitimizes your cause and love is finding someone who shares your passion.
The stress isn’t just on us. We impact the lives of other people, either by inspiring them to activism or by inspiring changes that impact them. As good as it feels when someone tells us that we’ve done or written something that helped them change their viewpoint for the better, we feel helpless when we dump energy into something and can’t see any direct results.
The important thing to remember is that it’s worth it. If you write a hundred articles, get into a thousand debates, and pass on a dozen books, and one person learns something from it, then you’ve done your job as an activist. If you make one person’s life a little better, it was worth it.
Activism isn’t about causing trouble, it’s about solving problems.
I have a cousin who helped start a charity for childhood cancer research. She gives a lot of her energy to this organization. Her social media is full of awareness memes and event fliers for her group and other groups with similar goals. She goes out of her way to find kids with cancer and try to help their families.
I have a lot of admiration for that. I try to do the same thing with different issues. We have the same goal. We want the world to be better, even if it means we’re tired and upset and running on next to nothing. Even if it means fighting with our families and neglecting our own health.
That’s what activism is for. There aren’t hundreds of thousands of issues. You’re never a “gay rights activist” or a “trans activist” or an “atheist activist” or a “STEM activist” Your goal, and everyone’s goal on some level, is to make the world better than it was when you got here. Focus on that and if you get burnt out, rest with the intent to come back stronger. Your job will never be done.