Anxiety and Activism

I started out the semester having absolutely no idea what I would do for my activist project. I thought that it would have to be an event, something big, something scary. I was so terrified! What if I picked the wrong thing? What if I couldn’t do it? What if people judged me for doing what I chose to do? There was nothing exciting, or good, or positive that I was feeling towards doing an activist project.

As I continued to loose sleep over what sort of project I would be able to complete, I had a realization.

If I was this nervous about doing a project, there had to be other people who were just as nervous. But where was the conversation about this? All I ever heard was how excited the whole universe was to be doing activisty things. How exciting and great and good it is to march, rally, shout, hang banners, organize events, be loud and be really, really…visible. All of those things are so important! And I have so much respect for folks who do those things. But I cannot do those things. There has to be a place for me, and people like me, who are kinda too scared to do those things. People who want change more than anything, but find it hard to be on the front line.

I wanted people to talk about how anxiety (or shyness, introversion, etc.) and activism happen together. So I decided I would put my own awkward, anxiety-ridden self in anxiety causing situations, and blog about them for the world to see.

And boy I did get involved. I performed in the Vagina Monologues, I joined WILL (Women Involved in Learning and Leadership) and GWST COMM (Gender and Women Studies Council of Majors and Minors). I made new friends, I talked to people, I went to events alone. I made myself do so many things that scared the crap out of me. (I won an award for my involvement in WILL too, the Unsung Hero of the Year Award…I was too scared to go to the award ceremony).

I also blogged. I made a tumblr called Anxiety and Activism. I shared other people’s thoughts on anxiety, being shy, and all of the things that come with putting yourself out there as an agent for social change.

Where I didn’t succeed was blogging about my relationship to my own activism. Because, for now, it’s a little too personal. It’s a little too fresh. It’s so hard to make yourself go to an event, then come home, and blog about how it made you feel. Then all your peers read it and know your innermost thoughts and fears? As of now, I’m not confident enough to be that brave. I think admitting that is really important.

If something is too much, don’t do it. You have to push yourself, but you have to know your limits. That is the most important thing I learned doing this project. But was I traditionally successful? Did I make a change? Did I influence other peoples’ lives?

Maybe. Maybe my blog was ultimately successful because I raised awareness in my friends, in my program on campus, in my classmates, and in some strangers on tumblr. I was seriously humbled when someone messaged me to say:

“Your blog is an inspiration. Though it’s not the reason I found it, I have a school arts project where I’m supposed to do something that will impact on the community and I’ve been wondering how a school project can ever be meaningful enough. I just wanted to say that your blog really gives me hope that someday we can all make a change”

If this person thinks I’m inciting change, maybe I should accept my own success? I have 26 followers right now, but that will grow. This is a project I am prepared to continue. I think that as long as activism stays scary to people, they won’t act. Fear is paralyzing, especially when no one talks about it. So it’s really important that we talk about it. If you want to talk about it, head on over to www.anxietyandactivism.tumblr.com. I really want to hear what you have to say.

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