When I was in college, full of energy, optimism, and free time, I considered myself an activist. I marched for the housekeepers at my university, wrote letters for Amnesty International, campaigned to protect the environment. Not stopping there, I took back the night and registered voters.
That was then. Fast-forward twenty years. I have a job, a partner, small children, and no time whatsoever. While being engaged in these very busy parts of my life, my activist self has been sitting on the couch, counting on others to do the heavy lifting. Sure I would write a check every once in a while, run in a 5k for charity, and I always voted, but I counted on the younger generation to take on the mantle and push all of us forward. My marching shoes were dusty. I doubted they fit anymore.
Lately though I’ve been feeling that itch. I’m feeling called to get off of the couch. You are welcome to join me. We can no longer count on someone else to take on the issues that matter so much to us, to our families, to our neighbors, friends, country, and world. Now is the time for action.
When starting a new exercise program, you have to be sure to go at your own pace. If you push yourself too quickly, you will injure yourself or burn out. Activist burnout is real, and given the current political landscape, we need to be in this for a marathon, not a sprint.
I went to one of my favorite local activists (and former Women AdvaNCer) Jen Ferris of Progress NC for some advice on how to get started making a difference while avoiding burnout.
Here is what she had to say when I asked her what are three simple things that you can do to get involved without getting overwhelmed:
- Stay informed. Find a few reliable sources of information that speak in a tone that you find to be approachable. Read those at odd times, like in the bathroom (We all do it!) or waiting in the kiss-and-go line at school. I suggest the NC Insider, subscribing to the NC Quick Clips Daily Briefing, or simply following the #NCPol hashtag on Twitter.
- Get Active. There are a lot of ways to be involved, and there is a continuum of activity. You can click links, call lawmakers, or protest– depending on your mood. Some good resources to help you decide what you’ll do to fight back today are the Carolina Resistance, 5 Calls, or Indivisible.
- Find balance. You don’t have to solve the world’s problems today. Sometimes all you can do is share a link on Facebook or chat with a friend about why you oppose a certain bill in Congress. That’s OK. It’s even alright to have whole days where you stay away from politics and political action altogether.
In addition, I asked Ferris what she thinks are you the most effective ways to be engaged (rather than speaking to the void)?
The single-most effective thing you can do is find a way to get facetime with the lawmakers who represent your district. If you live near Raleigh, schedule a meeting at the office of your Senator or Rep. You can meet them back in their districts, too. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons can be good times to meet in-district during legislative session. Even if your rep doesn’t share your politics, they need to hear from you. And meeting you and hearing your story will make a difference in their worldview, guaranteed.
For me, I try to do at least one thing a day to make a difference. I make calls to my representatives, I write about things that are important to me, and I donate my time and money to organizations that do work I care about. My activist card is still looking a little thin, but with each passing day I know that I am doing something to get stronger. I am in this for the long haul, and change takes time. Who’s with me?