[content notes: mentions of violence, transphobia, ableism]
I have been thinking about this question often in the last few weeks (and months and years, as I do). What’s my medicine? What’s my magic?
We are in a moment. I don’t feel that I need to describe the moment, per se — we see it, we feel it, we see how it’s impacting our people, we feel how it is landing with our loved ones and the earth.
In the last three years, I have applied for the same residency for organizers where they stick you in the woods so you can’t do anything but rest and recharge. The essay asks about your vision, why you need rest in this moment, what you hope to get out of a three-week break and how that will push your work forward. When I didn’t get in the first year, I felt like I wasn’t tired enough, or that I hadn’t earned a break, even though I was very much at a breaking point — and had been, for more than a year by then.
I knew I needed rest, and I knew I needed to take a break from organizing to be able to move from a place that felt grounded and centered and integrated. And then there was a major event in LA that involved a lot of people I loved and required a lot of meals for a lot of people, and my friends and I got those meals together. And then the pipeline. And then the election. The ban. The border. The femmes of color whose childhood and adult traumas and femme labor and holding and surviving led to many different types of ways their bodies needed to be cut open.
I kept pushing.
I applied for the same residency, looked at my application from the year before and was, like, “Ok, so same burnout, and also now I have PTSD from that time a car tried to run me over at an action, which I didn’t even process as trauma until Heather Heyer was murdered.”
Last summer, finally, I left my job. It was a dream job I had imagined years ago, and I got to talk with youth every weekend about what we could do to make things different. I got to hang out with nonbinary and baby queer kids and be an alive trans, nonbinary, very queer, very gay femme of color who has community and friends and joy and hope. But I was exhausted, and it wasn’t the right job, and for two (ten?) years, I struggled in nonprofit jobs where I couldn’t actually be my whole self, where I had to explain my gender, my pronouns, my body, my access needs over and over again to coworkers and intervene in microaggressions and see myself as a barrier between younger queer folks and other people who could cause some pretty significant emotional damage.
I remember a conversation with a peer, after leaving some icky-feeling funder space, where we talked about what our responsibility was: Were we shielding our youth by being in the spaces we were in to get funds to allow our programs to move forward, so that youth could have services, or were we teaching them that this is all we could expect, that being a queer elder meant sucking it up so that younger folks could get what we need, until they were old enough to also muscle through these spaces and redistribute resources?
The conversation didn’t feel resolved then. I didn’t have an answer, and I like knowing things and fixing things, and so for another two years, I kept struggling, until my PTSD and my access needs and my very loud internal call for more freedom, more liberation were all too loud to ignore.
I left my job. I promised myself I wouldn’t take a full-time nonprofit job again for five years. I started a business with my friend, and now we set our own hours and get to spend time with the families we are creating, and now, a full three seasons later, I am finally feeling aliveness in my body, most of the time. (It wasn’t gone before, and I have been blessed with community and deep friendships and love and support and joy and interdependence amid some really hard and dark and scary and stressful experiences, but now, this is how I feel most days. I wake up. I decide what I do with my day. I am in charge of me.)
My body feels different. My sense of hope is different. My ability to discern what is capitalism work and what is my work is sharper — and I am moving toward only doing My Work. Making space for ancestral healing. Recognizing that empathy and deep listening are my movement work. Making space for storytelling and channeling and sharing/creating/collaborating. Helping people to hold hope.
We are in a time. We need to be building and creating and finding and sharing water for the fires that are here and that are coming. Please, take your moment. Listen to yourself. Find your medicine. Find where you need love and attention and healing, and direct your energy toward getting what you need. Listen. Know what your medicine is, and invest your energy in shaping and growing it.