Note: I wrote this post in January, mid-trough point in depression cycle. Only now getting around to posting it, sorryyyyyy. I also want to preface this by saying that I do not consider myself to be an activists. There is still a lot of unlearning I need to do and research I need to do. Also, I don't think that I am actually doing or have done anything substantial. This post was brainstormed in the middle of my fellowship while I was working on my project, and I was trying to organize thoughts I had during that time.
I have been trying to be more vocal in terms of trying to contribute to and reform my campus, but there are a few pesky problems that my introversion, anxiety, and depression cause from time to time.
1. Is this really a problem? Or am I over-analyzing (like I do everything else).
With anxiety, there comes a tendency to over-analyze situations. I spent the first three years of my college career convinced I was going crazy because I thought no one else noticed the things I did. Sometimes, I still feel this way, even though I know there are others who feel the same way.
Activism can be overwhelming in general, but that gets multiplied by 100 when you also factor in anxiety, a natural tendency to get drained from social interaction, and the lows of depression. There are times when I have huge spurts of energy and feel extremely motivated to move forward with organizing and planning, but there are other times (which tend to occur more often), when I simply a) do not have the energy to think, plan, or get up…b) can not, and do not want to talk to people, or c) get too overwhelmed with plans and start spiraling.
Campus activism (and other activism I imagine) requires a lot of networking (like everything). Talking to people and not thinking that I am inarticulate are huge annoyances. Making sure I schedule time to meet with people can also be quite difficult. When other responsibilities such as classes and volunteering are finished, the first thing I want to do is go back to the sanctuary of my room to recharge and find my peace among candles, ambient lighting, and a cup of tea. Having to cut down on this time for meetings and discussions can sometimes facilitate feelings of angst.
Clique formation, as juvenile as it may seem, can also act as a barrier to good networking both socially and personally when factoring in anxiety.
4. "How Can I Help?"
Sometimes, the thought that I can't do anything effective or useful without being there on the front lines clouds my mind. When I can't muster up the energy or fortitude to be front and center somewhere, or be around a really large crowd, I start to feel really sh*tty. When this happens though, I try to remember that there are other ways to engage in activism and organizing if you have social anxiety for instance, and that you should never feel less than for your feelings.
If you can't rally or march, consider mentoring, volunteering, or a writing letters/campaigning for legislature that supports issues you care about.
5. But If No One Saw It, Did It Really Happen?
We live in an age of visibility, which is a double edged sword in my opinion. Exposures can help campaigns and awareness reach corners of the world as fast as the click of a button. On the other hand, while some things you do may make it online, or on some social media…most of it won't. This is okay!
Others may doubt your commitment to certain issues, or even of being a slacktivist. While online activism may not be effective in everyone's eyes, it's all about perspective. As it pertains to this point, an online hashtag, or repost, or what may have you might just be one leg of different ways in which someone advocates about issues they care about. They might be doing something online, but they might also volunteer regularly, or mentor. You never know.
Additionally, as stated above, not everyone has the means or capacity to be an on-ground activist.
All in all, those are just some challenges I've faced personally as a baby, non-activist. I'm not comfortable calling myself a student activist (fully), as I grapple with these questions on the regular.
What do you all think?