2016 has been the worst year of my life. My father went through a difficult and painful illness this summer, which resulted in his death in August. The whole ordeal has been devastating. I spent mid June through mid August at his side, then saying goodbye, and now I am dealing with the aftermath. I’m in the midst of executing his estate, which includes the sale of the house. Our family touchstone is gone, and my sisters, nieces, and I are dealing with the loss of that, and working to reform connections with one another. I feel broadsided, bruised, and exhausted.
And then November 8th happened.
Like so many others, I’m in shock, I’m frightened, and I’m very, very worried about what this means for my country, its people, and our reputation as a nation. I feel sick, betrayed, and because I was already down, I am struggling with how I will ever get to my feet and face this.
I’ve been in hiding since I returned home after my father’s death. I do this – I withdraw when I’m in pain. I find it difficult to even lift a hand to reach out to extended family and friends for support. I feel tired at the thought of explaining again and again, and facing my own grief. But now that my grief has doubled, now that an extra layer of confusion and fear have been added to my ordeal, I have to pull myself up, because it’s not only personal, it’s struggle within the populace.
I’ll be honest, I feel defeated. My first impulse is to run away. But I know that’s a feeling, a gut reaction to this struggle. I know that running, hiding, denying is not the way to help myself, or my fellow human beings. So I’m not going to allow myself to be displaced. I have a mind, a voice, and a pair of hands – I’m going to use them.
I’m defining three priorities for myself – three areas in which to direct my energies.
Three very large and extremely important areas that directly influence our nation and our planet, and steer what kind of world we live in. I have to pull that in and focus on specific areas if I truly want to be effective, both locally and, ultimately, globally.
When I worked at the university, I served on a minority affairs advisory committee to the chancellor, and on a community building team for faculty, staff, and students. I can use that experience and expertise, and the contacts I made, to continue that work in the greater community.
I have a personal interest in the greening of cities. Composting waste, planting to reduce heat and pollution in highly populated areas, and supporting wildlife by planting to sustain bees and other nectar-seeking insects, and encouraging pesticide-free, wildlife inclusive plant care and gardening. I want to participate in community programs that address and support these goals.
Education is a right. It isn’t elitist, it’s not for a select few nor a means to exclude or compartmentalize, and it’s not a chore, punishment, or humiliation. It’s the means to break boundaries – those we set for ourselves, and those in place as discouragement or disenfranchisement to others. Fuck that. Education IS for everyone, and it IS empowering. This is the great secret – it’s the means to have influence, rather than be subjected to the influence of others. And everyone can achieve it. All those American lies about what it is to be educated in this country have got to be revealed. I’m going to do my part to tear down the deceptions, and encourage exploration of the many paths to education.
These aren’t short-term goals to sustain me until I feel better, forget, or get distracted by something shiny. These are lifelong goals, things I can participate in for the duration. As Doctor Angela Davis proclaimed, I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.
What about you? Which issues do you see yourself working to change?