As we all look towards next week and what so many of us hope will be the end of an extraordinary chapter in American history, I find myself reflecting upon the last four years and how my life has been shaped in the face of such tumultuous times. I’ve always considered my work as an educator serving disadvantaged communities to be a form of activism and empowerment, but after the election of Trump, I found myself needing to do more. I got involved in my union, started going to rallies and protests far more frequently, wrote more letters, signed more petitions, spoke out more often, and attended conferences to build my skills, network with other activists, and improve my effectiveness. During this time, I also became a better runner and a more consistent, and stronger, lifter. These two parts of my world, my activism and my fitness, reinforce each other, give me strength, and feed my soul in complementary ways. In no particular order, here are some parallel truths I’ve noted between activism, living an active life and the perseverance, tenacity, and ups and downs of doing the work over the long term.
Everything counts. Do something.
Embrace practices that play to your strengths.
Embrace opportunities to bring up your weaknesses.
It’s never too late, and we’re never too old, to get started.
Focus on what can be done, not on what limits us.
There will be “seasons” to our efforts, which is absolutely ok. In fact, it’s necessary to acknowledge so that we have the energy to keep doing the work over the long haul.
Progress is rarely linear.
Having the time is about priorities and setting boundaries.
Most of our efforts would benefit from getting more high quality sleep.
It’s ok, and maybe even advisable, to specialize for a while and develop “your thing.”
Recovery is just as important as pushing hard.
“Balance” looks like different levels of effort and commitment at different points in time.
Don’t rely on motivation, which can be fickle; instead build routines and habits to keep doing the work when passions recede.
Nothing is more inspiring than finally getting started.
Accountability and community in the form of friends with shared values and shared efforts goes a long way.
A certain amount of discomfort is required in order for there to be growth and change.
Consistency trumps perfection.
Remember this work is a privilege.
Celebrate every victory, regardless of how small. (And then go out and do the next thing.)
And finally–avoid confusing the goal for the work. Even if I lift the weight, run the miles, and hold government officials accountable, the work is not over. Next week, whatever happens on Election Day, the work of my activism will continue. The skills I’ve learned in fitness to push through the hard times, to reprioritize my time as my needs change, and to focus on the process over the outcome have served me well as I’ve shifted my energies and gotten more involved in politics and advocacy. I really want to be on the winning team next week. I’m tired of feeling so angry, and hopeless, frustrated, and scared. My life in fitness has shown me that I can weather whatever challenges face me next, but I’m really ready to take a break from what feels like endless new hurdles and celebrate some victories for a little while! Whatever comes, I raise a glass to all of my fellow activists and the efforts you’ve made alongside me these past four years. It is an honor to do this work with you!
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found organizing fellow educators, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, in Portland, Oregon.