This weekend was filled with triggering news that I’m sure brought up anxiety and all sorts of emotions. And as I shared on the Kermit Says… Facebook and Instagram pages, there is no right or wrong way to react. We are all fully-formed humans with valid feelings and experiences that have shaped our very being. With every news report and social media post that sparked an array of feelings, I hope you took time to both acknowledge them and feel them deeply and to care for yourself in whatever way was most effective and beneficial for you to mend and heal. Now, are you ready to press on and power up because there is work to do? You, my friend, have a voice that is valuable and worthy. We need you. You need you. It’s time to change the game.
I grew up in and around politics my whole life. From attending community meetings and polling centers to hanging out with judges and political figures and asking them for homework help, the world of politics felt like an extension of me and my family. My parents even met at a political event, and it was by witnessing their involvement in city-wide affairs that I realized the impact one voice and one vote could have. This realization only grew with time. In high school, I recall actively participating in walkouts to protest against school budget cuts. In college, I recall protesting in response to sexual assault on college campuses. In graduate school, I found myself holding various positions in student government to make policy changes for a better school experience. And still here and now, I find myself fighting for the very same human rights so many of my and your ancestors worked so tirelessly for. In each of these roles as a participant, a marcher, a protester, and everything in between, I came to realize that there is no step too small to create change. That little-by-little, we can do extraordinary things and move the needle toward social justice and equity to create a better world for not just some, but for all. There is no voice too quiet, no person too young, no idea too small, and no cause too insignificant to create real and impactful change. We just have to start somewhere.
As a young person, I’m sure you can sometimes feel as though no one is listening to you, no one trusts your judgment, believes in your strength and ideas, or honors and respects your vision for this nation and world, but I do. You are the ones for whom we’ve been waiting. You do not see the world as it is but as it should and could be–and that is your gift, that is your talent. You will break the cycle of injustice. You will paint a colorful, more equitable, and more inclusive world. Here are some tips on how to do just that. The first two pieces of advice are from two incredible teens I know and love (and the last three are from little ol’ me):
- Use your emotions as motivation for action. If you’re angry about an outcome or issue, really unpack that and discover why, and then let it move you to make a change. Be bold in your ideas and creative in your approach. Take a chance–after all, the world is yours.
- Proximity is key. Stay educated about your cause not just by reading up, but also by meeting and talking with people on every side of the issue you’re addressing.
- Be brave. You will never influence the world by being just like it.
- Find your squad. Seek support from like-minded people, bounce ideas off of them, strategize to find effective ways to collectively accomplish your goals (but never sacrifice your integrity). A people united can never be defeated.
- Keep going. You will have hard days and challenging conversations and experiences where it feels like you’re not making any progress, where you feel powerless, and you just want to give up. Don’t. You may feel defeated, but you aren’t. Delayed does not mean denied.
- Practice self-care. This is hard work and it’s heart work. It’s long, it’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, it’s painful, it’s transformative, and it’s so incredibly rewarding. Take time for yourself, drink water, surround yourself with supportive people, get sleep, take a break from social media, do what you need to recharge because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
So, to all the game changers out there, let me remind you that we’ve been here before. We made it through then and we will make it through again. Keep making waves and loud noises that bellow justice now, revolution now, love now, peace now, freedom now. You already have what you need to make this world a better place. A place where human dignity and love outweigh everything. You just need to have the courage and believe in your ability to change the game.
Oh, and don’t forget to vote on November 6th.