Let’s Talk About Activist Burnout

Hi there, blog. Do you remember me?

I’ve missed you. I really have.

Each day I tell myself I want to blog. I tell myself that today will be the day that I post. I have lists of blog ideas in my notebook right now. I have written many blogs at my job. I have mostly-completed blogs just sitting on my desktop.

                                          Blog 2

But each time, something stops me.

A few days ago I read a passage in Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist that really seemed to describe what I’ve been feeling but never knew how to explain:

“We all have history. You can think you’re over your history. You can think the past is the past. And then something happens, often innocuous, that shows you just how far you are from being over it.”

Lately certain events and random occurrences in my life have dragged old, distressing memories to the forefront of my brain.

We all have moments that brought us to care about the things we do, to fight for the things we want to fight for. For me, a lot of what brought me to do the work I do—which mostly involves engaging people in conversations centered on equality, gender, healthy relationships, and activism—came from those memories which have me a strong desire to fight back, to take experiences that once brought me pain and use them to help people.

My drive to keep pushing forward for change came from those memories. But now my drive has been slowing drastically. And I hate it.

A few days ago I bought tickets to play inside the ball pit inside the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. The ball pit was essentially a giant pit of balls exactly like you would see in McDonalds but bigger and deeper and kind of dangerous.


One moment you could be standing and totally fine and the next you could be slowly sinking, getting stuck and buried beneath a million tiny white balls. I would start to slip beneath the surface and then I would fight to break free.

That’s how I feel right now.

I feel like old memories and little things—that remind me how messed up the world still is and how much work there still is to do—keep piling up, threatening to bury me and I keep having to fight to break free to the surface again.

I know this post is metaphor-heavy but I think that’s what it needs to be.

The weird thing about the way I feel right now is that I don’t feel unhappy. I have many good things in my life and I’m aware that I have many good things. I feel more confident than I ever have before in my life.

But right now I also feel buried by all the things that still need to change.  

This weekend was rough. I realized how much I’m chained to my anger. Nothing huge happened. Instead, it was a collection of occurrences that added up.

I felt anger at  the men who cat called me outside my metro stop—just like they do every time I walk home alone. I felt disgusted by all the men who felt they were allowed to touch me because I was wearing a tank top. I felt gross and objectified by the men who grabbed me to get me to dance with them even when I screamed the word “Stop” over the loud, thudding music. I’m furious that this behavior is normalized and allowed—and I have the right to be. I’m having trouble letting myself take up that much space.

This is just one example of how backwards everything is. This is just one example of what I’ve been experiencing lately.This isn’t even close to the worst injustices out there—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

It just means that I can’t give up yet—or ever.

But the way I’m feeling right now is telling me that I need to make some changes. I’ve written advice blogs on staying motivated before, but I missed something very important—I never talked about how critical it is to validate and address the way you feel.

All too often, when I try to call out something problematic, I’m just the annoying feminist activist who needs to chill, who doesn’t understand that that’s just the way the world is. And this happens frequently to anyone who dares to object to sexism, racism, ableism, etc.

Being silenced will not change anything, staying silent will not allow you to help make things better.

When it comes to feeling burnt out, take a break if you need. Reflect on the way you feel. Talk to others who will understand.* Find an outlet. Realize that you have a right to feel the way you do. Let yourself feel it.

Then keep going when you’re ready.

My voice is one of the few things I have among all the things in my life that I can’t control. I’m not going to give it up.

I’m ready to keep going.

*Although it is sadly stigmatized, seeing a counselor or mental health professional is always a good option when it comes to self-care and burnout.

The American Constitution Society: A Reflection

This blog post was originally posted here on youngpeoplefor.org on June 26th, 2015.

About a week ago I walked twenty five minutes to the closest Forever 21 in pursuit of a professional-looking jacket at a reasonable price. I had to look extra-professional because I was going to be playing the part of law student at 9am the next morning.

As a part of my internship with Young People For (YP4) this summer, I’ll be helping to engage young people in the courts and raise awareness of the importance of judges and the judicial system to advance progressive causes. Because of this, I was given the opportunity to attend the American Constitution Society Convention, a conference for law students and lawyers so I could learn more about the courts and their impact on our everyday lives.


I was surrounded by people in suits. I was probably the only one there who was twenty and couldn’t legally drink at the reception. People were surprised—and impressed—to see that I was only a college student who was there to learn. I was given lots of advice on law school—that it’s worth it, that it’s the worst, that I should go, that I absolutely shouldn’t.

Courts Cohort

Despite receiving conflicting advice, I learned a lot—both in and out of the panel discussions and speeches. I attended panels on Title IX, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, mass incarceration, and I went to a workshop on writing Op-Eds. I listened to distinguished law professors from top law schools, I listened to Wendy Davis speak about reproductive freedom, economic inequality, women’s rights, and the ways in which these three issues intersect with each other, I attended a Q&A with—wait for it—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


It was awesome.

I learned so much. I learned from inspiring, knowledgeable individuals who had a real impact on addressing social issues and equality for marginalized groups within the legal system.

It made me think: would a law degree be a ticket to being one of these people?

But then other thoughts came to my mind: would I be smart enough? Then I looked around the room: most of the people there were white, and most of the people there were men. Most of the universities that were represented were Ivy League. Would I survive in a profession that only caters to a certain demographic of people? A law degree could cost upwards of $80,000 a year for three years. Then there are application fees, LSAT exams and preparation expenses on top of that.

Something that I thought was missing from the convention was addressing how we get people to go to law school so then they can become judges and fill spots in political offices, the Senate, and the Supreme Court in the first place. Because right now only a certain set of financially-able individuals are encouraged to go to law school and are put on track to get there.

If we truly want diversity on the bench and in the legal profession, then we need to start encouraging people of different backgrounds that they should and are capable of successfully receiving a law degree. We need to carve a space for those who belong to marginalized identity groups so then the space doesn’t seem to only belong to predominately white, upper class males.

Too many people get turned off if they feel like they’re going to be in a space where they won’t be valued, heard, or represented.

We need to start churning out lawyers and politicians and other professionals that can understand a wider demographic of people who are really committed to addressing inequalities.

Just a thought.

At the closing of the convention, I sat there and listened to Ruth Bader Ginsburg discuss the sexism she faced in the workplace and I listened to her tell the story of how she struggled to get her first job. Employers told her directly that they didn’t want to hire her because she’s a woman. It’s scary to think that that wasn’t that long ago.

But then they showed us pictures of t-shirts that Justice Ginsburg’s fans made and I thought about the incredible influence that she’s had on many lives and in many monumental court cases. Through all the adversity and discrimination, she made a real difference and that’s worth noticing and celebrating.

Now we just need to pave the way so that more people have the opportunity to get there.