Throughout my internship, I have faced a lot of questions. People often ask me what my plans are for the rest of my life, which is a question I personally dread answering. Two other questions have flowed throughout the entirety of my internship and consistently leave me lost in my mind. These questions are:
- “How do you pick which issue to dedicate your time to?”
- “How do you sustain yourself in this work, especially when you do not get results right away?”
When I hear these questions my initial response is, “Ugh, what a great question,” and then I will give a more in-depth response, based on the person I am talking to. For the first question, I usually point out the irony of the situation. Even though social justice work is by nature outwardly focused, and usually a process in which you give up some part of yourself to support others in your community, justice work is a deeply personal journey. In order to be truly effective in social justice work, you have to know yourself. You have to know what issues tug at your heart and your mind so that you can dedicate your time there. You also need to know your own identity. Specifically, it’s components of power, privilege, and oppression. Once you have this understanding of yourself, it is pretty easy to pick out the issue you should dedicate your time to.
The second question, which is related to sustaining oneself in this work, is more challenging. I often lie awake at night asking myself “Is it worth it?” or “Will the world ever change?” With the effects of injustice constantly showing up on social media and the news, it’s easy to want to give up. What keeps me going in the sea of social issues that surrounds us is coming back to the “why.” When I am feeling discouraged, I usually take time with a pen and paper to write about why I showed up here and why I have chosen to work against injustice. I have found that my dedication to social justice stems from a myriad of experiences. Some of my dedication comes from my childhood and some from the eye-opening experiences I’ve had in college.
I encourage you to try this reflection sometime. It can be an emotional and deeply reflective experience, but it always reignites the passion for change within me. This work was never meant to be easy—but trust me, it is so worth it.