Am I Talking Too Loud?
I ran into an old acquaintance, N, this weekend, and he accused me of being an activist. I was shocked and delighted. A little over a year ago, after skimming Richard Wiseman’s book, 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, I had answered some funereal questions in an attempt to discover what, perhaps, I secretly wanted to do with my life. When considering how I want to be remembered after I die, I had written down writer, teacher, mother, amazing friend… and activist. That last one surprised me. I didn’t know what I would do with this insight, but I was excited.
I have always fought for social justice in some way, but there is an ocean between what I do – occasionally attending a rally, donating time, donating money – and what a true activist, like Tarana Burke, does. That fact doesn’t make what I do worthless, I just constantly feel – like a true student of Jacques Derrida – that I am never doing enough in my pursuit of justice.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was shocked and terrified. My first reaction was abject panic. Even though my husband and I had been trying for more than two years, I had recently decided to stop worrying about it and was fully prepared to consider adoption in a couple of years. I even saw it as a good thing, that I could stop mentally preparing for motherhood and focus on my career.
Well. In an instant that changed and didn’t I start demanding parenting perfection from both my partner and myself (I might be hard on him, but no one is harder on me than me). In everything we did, from eating too quickly (him) to swearing like sailors (me), I insisted we start behaving as if the baby were already here and absorbing our every move as gospel. I was sure, from about 8 weeks into my pregnancy, that I was having a girl. Tragically, she did not live past 21 weeks, and I wrote about that here.
Knowing I was going to bring a girl into this world, I ferociously insisted that the world get better for girls, and fast. The #metoo movement was just starting to gain ground, and I had lots of personal, professional, and philosophical insight into it – fifteen years in the service industry has cost a small fortune in therapy – so it was pretty natural for me to also start looking at the movement from the perspective of a parent. When you start looking at issues like racism, gun violence, and the status of refugees from that angle... the claws really do come out. I began to hound my Facebook “friends” on all manner of concerns, from First Nations rights to the ecological disaster that is bottled water to the very current problem in our universities, where the open secret regarding professors sexual harassing and assaulting their students is in the hands of an administration tangled up in its own red tape.
I don’t post multiple times a day, but what I do post online is almost always related to an issue I care about. Some nights, I abandon my rule about turning off my screens an hour before bedtime, and then I can’t sleep because I’ll see something that disturbs me on my Facebook feed, something racist, some comment that disparages refugees as “mooches”, or some mansplaining about #metoo. I stay up late commenting, hunting down sources that prove my challengers wrong, and private messaging my errant friends in the hope of educating them about just how wrong they are.
Some of my friends and acquaintances have grown tired of my so-called activism, hence N's adverse reaction. “You should cool it with the #metoo posts,” he said. “You have to appreciate the good things in life, too.” I chose to leave that conversation and jump in an Uber, because it was 1am, he was drunk, and as I have often iterated… it’s useless having a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.
(Un)fortunately for my Uber driver, Yassin, I couldn’t let it lie. I contended, first in English, and then when I realized he didn’t understand, again in French, that it is because I appreciate how good I have it that I fight for change. It is because of the free healthcare and emotional support that I received after choosing to terminate my pregnancy that I worry about women who don’t have Canadian health coverage or the right to choose. It is because I work for generous, honest, fierce women who respect me that I fight for women to work in a harassment-free environment. It is because I have never gone hungry or had to worry about having access to clean water that I am such a passionate promoter of charity:water. I think Yassin agreed, and I think you will too: we are incredibly lucky in so many ways, and we have an obligation to leave this world better than we found it. The way the world is isn’t good enough for me, and the thought of my kid growing up in the world I did makes me feel that same panic I felt when I saw two lines on the pee stick. The world needs to change now, not someday, and I need to make it happen.