Before my surgery, I thought the hardest part of my recovery was going to be the act of recovering – but that wasn’t the case. Within two days of my surgery, I felt well and stopped taking pain medication. I was tired and my body needed to heal, so I spent most of my time in bed and got up to cook a little here or there and to play with my cat. After two weeks of Netflix, reading for pleasure, playing with my cat, and eating home-cooked vegan meals, it was hard to return to my normal routine of work, school, and activism. Even as I write this, I recognize that part of me doesn’t want to – I’d rather be at home, warm and comfortable, and watching the latest season of Black Mirror.
Despite these feelings, I am sitting here writing this on my lunch break at work before I head into a graduate seminar all night. While I feel like I’ve lost some of my activist momentum, I haven’t lost my activist heart nor ideals which drive my engagement with academia and socialism. I go to school because I want to teach. I want to teach because I want to critically engage students and teach them the depth and breadth of critical thought, so they can challenge social ideals instead of accepting the world the way it is. I want to write and engage both the academic and non-academic community in critical thought around activism, socialism, capitalism, feminism, and veganism. While my immediate desire might be to curl up in bed, I know that my overall goals cannot be reached through passive means.
I engage in activism because I recognize the flaws and pitfalls of the structured systems that surround us. Capitalism is a destructive force that wrecks everything it touches – from the people who are exploited for their labor and feel alienated from their society to the environment that is irrevocably damaged by it. The patriarchy is harmful to all sexes, not just by providing unrealistic standards of gender to live up to, but also by excluding those from society who choose not to identify with either or switch to a gender not assigned to them at birth because of the state of their genitals. Racism is a feature of these systems – a built in part of capitalism to keep black and brown bodies exploited for their labor and unable to rise out of the socioeconomic lower class. The environment and humanity are not the only things damaged by capitalism either – animals are constantly exploited through this system through living artificially short lives, being raped and impregnated constantly as a means of production, and are often killed without ever being exposed to sunlight. While I am still tired and in recovery mode, I recognize that my belief in socialism as a means to heal these social wrongs relies on one thing above all else: people power. If I’m not willing to get up and do this work myself, how can I rely on other people to engage in these battles for me?
In the end, I engage in activism not for myself nor my feelings, but because of my core ideals and the changes I want to see both locally and nationally. It’d be nice to say that I know that one day, far off in the future, all the work I engage in will pay off and I’ll be able to stay at home, with my cat, and watch Black Mirror to my heart’s content, but I know that may not happen. Instead, I recognize the part of myself that craves more breaks and I make sure that I strive for a better work-life-school-rest-activism balance. The struggle may never end, so I have to be sure to give myself a break every now and then and indulge in some rest when I truly feel the need so I can avoid activist burnout. It’s okay to want a break – and it’s okay to take one, especially when it’s needed. I need to tell myself that more often and I think it’s something a lot of activists out there need to hear.