I Will Show Up
I had never been to a protest before. I had been content, I had been comfortable, I had been quiet in my place of privilege. I had cared, but just enough. I had signed a petition here, donated a few dollars there. I had never acted with any urgency or fear or intention.
But last Saturday, when women flooded the streets of countless cities and towns across the world, I joined them. Filled with trepidation and armed with a homemade sign, I took my anger outdoors. The anger that had been building for several months. The anger, fear, panic, and frustration unlike anything I had ever felt before.
It wasn’t easy. I get anxious in large crowds and, as an introvert, I’ve never been one to yell my grievances at the top of my lungs in public. My feet hurt, I was cold, I was nervous, and I was uncomfortable.
But I soon realized that my discomfort was insignificant. It didn’t compare to the discomfort of those who fear for their lives because of their religion or the color of their skin. Who are denied basic rights like healthcare or land free from an invasive oil pipeline. Who are detained at the airport on the way home to their families. Who are told they are insignificant, insufficient, unequal, unwanted.
So I put my discomfort aside and kept marching anyway. And that’s when my small, personal revolution happened. That’s when I found that I was not resigned to remain in my little world governed by my own needs, goals, and desires. I had lived in that easy and familiar place all my life, vaguely aware of my privilege but never fully reckoning with it. Aware of the suffering around me but never actually confronting it. But as injustices mount and hate becomes normalized, I’ve had to shift my attention to others and alter my priorities to those beyond my own.
I’ve decided that, for the first time in my 22 years, I will not come first. I will not prioritize myself over the people who struggle infinitely more than I do. I will show up for them. I will endure my unease as I march with a crowd of protestors. I will wake up early on my Saturday morning and fight for abortion rights at a clinic two hours away when I’d rather be sleeping in. I will forgo a dinner out with friends so I can donate some money to the ACLU. I will follow a few rules I set out for myself: I’m never too tired to march in a protest. I’m never too busy to call my senators. I’m never too complacent to stay quiet.
I realize this revelation came as soon as my rights were threatened. That’s inexcusable and regrettable. I won’t try to defend myself for that. What I will do is fight—and fight hard. For women like me but also for people whose marginalization and oppression I can only begin to understand.
My time for being selfish and resting comfortably in the world is over. Part of growing up is growing out. It’s about expanding your world and your concern to include experiences and struggles beyond your own, no matter how challenging that may be. Because there’s no time to lose.
The world isn’t going to wait for me to get comfortable before it falls to pieces. I—we all—must learn to be ready and bold and sacrificing now. Even when it interrupts our sleep or our fun or our complacency. Even when it’s scary. Even when it hurts. And especially when it forces us to acknowledge our privilege, recognize our selfishness, and show up for the fight.
[Photo by Rachel Mallison]
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