I was raised by a single Mom, until age 14 when I left home.
She was a feminist, humanitarian, writer, independent thinker and activist– so I came by my activist nature honestly.
It was a common event in my home to have groups of her engaged friends sitting around the kitchen table, passionately discussing current affairs or injustices and hatching plans to raise awareness.
My mother had no trouble speaking her mind, rocking the boat, or standing up for herself or others who could not. So, naturally, she raised her daughters the same way.
My childhood is full of stories of me defending the underdog or being sent to the office for asking too many questions of my teachers.
As I grew older, the injustices of the world entered my radar and I took certain causes to heart. As an empath, I felt others’ pain very deeply and tried to use my scrappy nature to help.
My earliest protests were often solo.
Other teenagers seemed to be more worried about what to wear to the dance than the state of the environment. So, I was on my own.
My very first protest ended with me being escorted out of a “Food For Less” store by the cops. I was in the tuna section handing out pictures of bloody dolphins that had been killed in fishing nets with “end the slaughter” in bright red marker on them. No actual arrest, just removed and escorted home.
As I got older I championed causes, marched and rallied. I stood on my soapbox and generally got in the face of the world.
I took the anger I had built up from a messed up childhood and channeled it into my activism, where I felt totally justified in my rage.
I assumed if people didn’t care about these causes it was because of ignorance, right? I mean if the world knew what was happening they would get on board and fight, right?
The city I’ve grown up in is known for two things: “Big Oil” and The Rodeo. A city not at all a friendly place for activists. After about 10 years, I hit activist burn-out big time! I felt like no one cared, like I was banging my head against a wall. I was exhausted and disheartened.
I still walked my talk, dedicated myself to my values and my heart. I was socially responsible, recycled, refused to buy a car, signed petitions, donated money, tried not to buy things made in China (you get the idea).
But I retired my soap box and megaphone.
Some years later, I came back to my activist roots.
I dusted off my army boots and marched again.
This time, I was learning how to avoid burnout.
I started practicing Engaged Buddhism and “spiritual activism”.
But that’s a story for the next post.
How about you?
In the comments let me know what you stand up for, what causes are close to your heart?
This post is the 1st in a memoir series by Nyk Danu. Read the 2nd, “Activist Burnout and Back Again”