This question has been floating in my mind since the 2016 election. Honestly. I, like many people, cried as I watched the returns come in that fateful Tuesday almost four years ago. I cried that night, I cried the next morning, I have probably cried at least once a month ever since.
The 2016 election changed my life in many ways. It made me realize that I can’t sit around and just vote. Although voting is important, I needed to do more, be an active participant, do the actual work. That’s why four years later, I’ve spent over two of the years working alongside people who want to create change, who are working to create change. I have skills and talents and a passion for helping people, it was time for me to use all of it to help do something that matters. I remember the joy I felt in 2018 after the midterms. Honestly, even before. When I was on the ground in New Hampshire watching passionate field interns and volunteers who were spending their summers, every free moment they had to talk to voters, advocate for candidates they believed in, use their voices to help create change. There is a power in using your voice. There is a power in amplifying voices. There is a power in young people that is undeniable. I recently saw this tweet and it made me think of New Hampshire.
I was just 24 when I watched how incredibly powerful young people are. They’re smarter, more driven, and care about people. They care about the fate of the world, their country, people they don’t even know. Young people are the future, that’s always been true. But they’re the key to changing the world for a better future.
Ok, I’m done being sentimental.
Something I say a lot is that the 2016 election broke me. Usually I say it as a joke, but deep down, I mean it. Something inside me broke and empathy was released. I let things affect me more and guess what, that’s not a weakness. Empathy is one of the most important traits people can have. I think it’s what makes a leader a good leader. I cry when I read stories about Black children losing their parents to police violence. I cry when I hear a Black voter in Wisconsin said he waited in line for four hours to vote because he figured the long lines were on purpose to discourage people like him from voting (not breaking news: it was). I cry after reading about the millions of people whose lives are changed forever because of the man who lives in the White House.
I’ve read a lot of things about writers, some of it on Pinterest, some of it from other writers, some of it from my own journey as a writer. But what I think makes writers so special is that they’re able to put themselves in other people’s shoes. They’re able to feel what others are feeling. They’re able to crack the code and find out what makes people tick, how they operate, what goes on in their mind. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. Even during those times where I was unsure what the future would hold for me, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I knew I had writing.
You don’t become a writer when you get published. Or when you get an agent. Or when you win awards or get recognition. You become a writer from the minute you write something. I know that no matter what the future holds for me, if I continue on this path of activism and advocacy, or if I quit and write full-time, I’ll always be a writer. Maybe I’ll take another five-year break, maybe it’ll be longer. Stop, start, stop again, I’ll be a writer.
The 2016 election didn’t break me. It made me stronger. It unlocked the empathy I’ve always had, but made me realize that it’s not weak to cry and show your feelings, it’s what makes me stronger. It makes me a stronger writer, a stronger activist, a stronger person.
The title of this post is, “Am I doing enough?” In the past week, it’s circulated in my head over and over again like a revolving door. Am I doing enough for the Black community right now? Am I doing enough to represent the Asian community? Am I doing enough as a digital creator? An activist? Am I donating enough? Am I speaking out enough? Am I sharing enough resources? Am I educating myself enough? Am I doing enough? What is enough? Is that a quantifiable amount?
The truth is: I’ll never know the answer to any of those questions. As a colleague reminded me today during a meeting, an activist’s job is never done. You never reach the point of, boom, there’s my quota, I did my part now I can sit on the sidelines. We have to constantly work, constantly speak up, and constantly educate ourselves. There is no threshold.
I don’t know how the 2020 election will turn out. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re wrong. What I do know is that I’m going to do everything I can to do my part. Not just the presidential election because spoiler alert: that’s not the only race on the ballot. I’m going to volunteer for down-ballot races across the country. I’m going to donate my time to Black-owned businesses who need help and could use my skills. I’m going to put in the work. If you want to see change in the world, you need to be an active participant. I’m also going to make sure I take time and space to take care of myself. The work I, and the hundreds of thousands of millions of other activists, do is important, but so is taking care of my well-being.
If you’re asking yourself similar questions, I’m here to tell you that yes, you’re doing enough. If you feel like you need to do more, make sure you’re not overwhelming yourself. If you don’t have the capacity right now, pass the baton. I and others are happy to take it for now and let you focus on yourself.
Be strong, be kind, you’re not alone in this fight. You are enough.