If there’s anything I’ve learned while starting this new activism journey, it’s that everyone must seize opportunities when they come. There’s no time to mull around about it. There’s urgency to everything happening around us. Activists live life in the fast lane. It seems like the perfect profession for those that love an adrenaline rush or love to be in the spotlight.
I wish I were that person.
Last week, I saw an article (here) where researchers found there is such a thing as an “ambivert.” I cackled, loudly. It’s difficult to get me to laugh so enthusiastically at online articles, but this one had me. It makes me happy to know there is a word that describes my personality. If you’re confused, an ambivert is someone who is an introvert and an extrovert (or they fall on a spectrum in-between those). Yeah, I know. I don’t know what the personality “switch” is, but I can go months without wanting or needing to be around anyone. My idea of a perfect day is staying home, sitting on my couch, facing the window, lighting a candle, drinking some tea or coffee, and reading a book or working. On those days I can tolerate going to a coffee shop but only if it’s relatively empty. Then there are those days when I want interaction with ALL the people. I go to events, heck, I go to my mom’s house where everyone is always hanging out. Those are the days where I can’t get enough of being out of the house and talking to people. Why do I do that? Who knows…
This matters for my activism because most days I lean towards my introverted side. It makes taking significant opportunities emotional, arduous, and stressful for me. Interactions with big groups of people for planning meetings or networking events usually mean I’ll be the one listening to everyone speak while I hover on the sides of their conversations. When suggestions or requests are being made for collaborative efforts, I often hesitate to talk instead of adamantly or enthusiastically participating.
Two weeks ago, the organization where I am volunteering was asked to have our president speak at Yom HaShoah for our local Jewish temple. The week of the service the president was going to be out of town. He asked for others to volunteer, but no one was able. I recognized immediately that this was the opportunity to request partnership from our Jewish community with refugee assistance or volunteering aid, but I hesitated to speak up. I waited until no one else was able or willing to take an interest. After I typed up my response to assist, I waited a few minutes to hit enter. I was pacing all over the kitchen. Ultimately, after a few days of working up the courage to volunteer, I still couldn’t send a quick reply. Here’s the thing – I KNEW I could do it. I knew I could write the speech; I knew it wouldn’t be difficult. DUDE, I EVEN KNEW I WOULD HAVE NO PROBLEM SPEAKING PUBLICLY. Even so, I still hesitated. I still walked around the house like a crazy person looking for something that doesn’t exist – my kids thought I’d lost my marbles (probably literally).
Anxiety manifests itself so differently for everyone. For me, I always know that in the end, I can accomplish what I set out to do, but every time, taking the first step is the most demanding task.
Finally, on April 11th, 2018 I spoke at our local Jewish temple to about 60 people for over 7 minutes and the only thought I had when it was over, was that I need to speak more often so that I can be better. It’s too bad I can’t skip the anxiousness entirely to go straight to the feeling of accomplishment (insert annoyed face here) I have at the end.
My wish for those contemplating taking a step forward to help the world is to take that step – even if you need a few days to think about it because your anxiety spikes knowing that you’ll need to interact with others. If in the end, it seems like a reasonable sacrifice to make – if like me, you think you can overcome those hurdles in the end – then do it. At best, you’ll find the work rewarding, and the world will be better for it. At worst, you continue doing what you were doing before but knowing that you tried.
Note: I uploaded my speech to youtube, but it is awful quality. If you wanna see it anyway, then there’s a link to it here. I was gonna copy/paste my speech here but – plagiarism – and I don’t necessarily wanna copyright it so I won’t be sharing it, unfortunately.