Thoughts of the Recently Woke

The blog I had previous to this one was focused specifically on geeky things. I’ll always be a geek and there will be times on this blog when I geek out about some ridiculously nerdy thing – but I trailed off on that blog and I think it was, at least in part, because I was too limiting in directing a topic for it. This one I’ve left purposely open. I wanted a place where I could talk about news, current events and politics if I wanted – but I didn’t want to limit it to that, either, because sometimes I want to talk about books or fitness or something completely random.

One of my friends tweeted something today that I identified with in a huge way:

2015 me: who are you?
2017 me: I’m you but now I livetweet congressional hearings instead of scifi tv shows

Yep, pretty much. I haven’t out-and-out gone off about politics yet on this blog and it’s partly because, to quote Jon Lovett, “there’s just so much going on” – one doesn’t even know where to start. I’m also relatively new to following politics and I’m very aware that there are a lot of areas where I just haven’t learned all the background and I try not to spout off too much about things if I don’t feel I really understand them.

But I’m learning and I’m doing. I’ve been thinking a lot about volunteerism vs. activism. I’m really into DeRay Mckesson’s Pod Save the People and of course he’s an extraordinary activist and talks a lot about activism, getting involved, what you can do, etc. And he talked on the newest one about starting where you are, and about not waiting for someone to give you permission, and not worrying that what you’re getting involved with isn’t the absolute most critical thing, because there’s so much to be done.

And that’s part of what I worry about, so hearing him say that was helpful. It’s not that I worry that what I’m getting involved with isn’t what should be at the top of the list – I’m helping people strengthen their English skills and I’ve got no doubts about how important that is, and there aren’t enough people doing it (there regularly aren’t enough volunteers, so myself and other teachers will end up teaching two units that are supposed to each have their own separate class).

The thing that sometimes pokes at me is that I’m focusing on volunteering and not as much on activism. I am calling elected officials (and various other offices – I get my ideas of who to call each week from 5 Calls) every week (I have a spreadsheet!) and I keep an eye out for activist opportunities that work for me; I’ve done one protest and one phone bank with Planned Parenthood and would gladly do either of those things again. But I haven’t gone to any of the big marches – being in a crowd of loud people can sound really draining at a time when I’m really ready for some rest.

And it’s not like I feel like I have to do #allthethings – I’m just super inspired by people doing protest and activism and a part of me wants to do more of that. But I’m also really loving the volunteering I’m doing and putting a lot of energy into it, and I feel like it’s a great fit for my personality and skills. I do still want to keep open to doing more activism and look for ways to do that without burning myself out. But I’m in this for the long haul – the election was what woke me but I intend to stay woke, which means I don’t need to do EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, I need to continue to do things in ways that are sustainable. So if I need to rest instead of marching, that’s okay – I’m not doing anyone any good if I exhaust myself.

Really I just feel, in a lot of ways, like I’m trying to make up for lost time – so many years of living in my bubble and not making any effort to get out and do something that helps someone. And you can’t make up for lost time, so there’s no point running yourself ragged trying – you start where you are and go from there.

Revelling/Reckoning has been one of my favorite Ani Difrano albums since it came out, and there’s a song on that album that I’ve always loved but that also has always terrified me – Tamburitza Lingua. This is the part that’s always gotten to me: “10 9 8 seven six 5 4 three 2 one / and kerplooey / you’re done. / you’re done for. / you’re done for good. / so tell me / did you? / did you do / did you do all you could?”

And the answer is no – the answer is always no, the answer always has to be no, unless you’re one of the rare and amazing people that gives up their entire life to activism/volunteerism – I know a person like that and he’s fucking incredible. But not everyone is that person, and that doesn’t mean your contributions aren’t crazy important – the important thing is making contributions.

DeRay frequently asks his guests what advice they’ve been given that has always stuck with them, and in the first episode he asks Andy Slavitt, who quotes his dad’s advice – “always contribute more than you cost in all that you do.” That’s a huge goal to work towards. I think I’ll be working towards it for the rest of my life. And I’ll never be able to say “I did all I could” – but that song doesn’t scare me like it used to.

There’s Just So Much Going On

Yesterday evening was really intense even before I knew anything newsworthy had happened.

My ESL class ended up getting a bit heavy – the curriculum for the night included a reading that was a story about an immigrant family that came to America because the parents wanted a better life for their children. It was a hopeful feel-good story, but it ended up leading to some pretty serious discussion about everyone’s own lives, situations, histories, reasons for coming here, and one woman sharing an incredibly painful story that broke my heart for her. It was hard to hear but I’m so glad they felt comfortable having that conversation with me. I have so much respect and affection for these folks.

I got home after class, told Matthew about the evening, and after we’d talked about it he said “So … with all of that going on, I guess you haven’t heard the news.”


Tomorrow we’re driving to New Orleans for a long weekend planned around Matthew’s cousin’s wedding. Neither of us has been to New Orleans before and we’re super excited to just do some wandering and exploring. Last road trip we went on was last month when we drove to PA to see my oldest friend Chris perform in In the Heights and on the way there the drama was unfolding surrounding and leading up to the first failed attempt at a vote on the AHCA. We followed it pretty obsessively during the drive – made for great road trip entertainment – and on the way home two days later we caught up on all the podcast reactions and dissections.

Looks like we’ll have no lack of podcast material to follow this trip either. As the man said, Lordy.

I Think I’ll Do

The passive voice is not easy to teach. There are times when I question whether I’m qualified to be teaching ESL at all – and then I find out that last Thursday, one of the nights I’m not there, the group I usually teach didn’t even have a teacher because not enough volunteers showed up. 

I’m doing fine, and I’ll get better as I go, and I’m showing up to do it. 


So the volunteer adventure I’m on (at some point I’ll talk about how finding a place to volunteer regularly was harder than I would have expected) is teaching ESL classes two nights a week at our local Hispanic center. I’m also using Rosetta Stone along with a few other apps to work on learning Spanish. I’m still very much a beginner but I’m getting there. 

By the time I get home after a day at work and then teaching class I’m definitely zonked but while I’m teaching I’m so much in the moment – I’ve only been doing it for about two months so it’s yet another thing I’m very much a beginner at – I feel like a beginner in a lot of areas lately. It only just now occurred to me that that’s a big part of where I’m at right now – being a beginner on so many different levels. 

Okay, I’m sleepy and if I keep writing I’m going to get punchily philosophical. Best save the thought until I’m more rested.