The phrase “This is only the beginning” can be read in a few different ways. And I’m going to share with you how I mean it. It may not be what you think.
The year of 2016 changed me. If we’d had a conversation on this day in January of 2016, it likely would have been a vastly different conversation than if we’d had it today. Several occurrences factored into this, some personal, some professional. But then, as I was thinking this through, I realized that my conclusion wasn’t entirely honest.
Here’s a more honest way of putting it: throughout the year, I became more of who I am.
I don’t like thinking that an outside experience “makes me different,” mostly because I don’t want to give my power away to anything outside of me. I’m in charge of my thoughts, my feelings, my reactions, my actions. I’m in charge of my words, my expressions, my hopes, my dreams. I’m in charge of my own damn imagination and no one can take that away from me.
I will admit that the 2016 election challenged me – to stay positive, to stay focused, to stay centered in truth, and open to evolving that truth.
And in (mostly-ish) meeting that challenge, I began to become more of myself. (I also began cussing a lot more, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Over this weekend, seeing people all across the world come out to support the basic notion that Equal Rights are Human Rights, moved me. Knowing I’m not alone moved me.
A lot of what I have to say, a lot of who I am, comes through in my books, in my written words, however subtly. In social media, on this blog, I have steered away from expressing blatantly polarizing ideas because my intent in life is not to polarize. Quite the opposite. Compassion and empowerment are biggies for me. Understanding is a biggie for me. But there is no middle ground between compassion and hatred. Being compassionate about discrimination is not a step toward acceptance.
There are times when I have sent pieces of my work to people who are nothing like me (different race/gender/sexual orientation/religion/etc.) and I ask them to tell me if there’s something I’m not understanding, if there’s something I don’t know that I should know. I ask people not just like me to help me to understand more than what I know. I ask them to, out of love, call bullshit on me.
And I’m so grateful when I understand some new human facet, new human truth, in a new light. That is a step toward acceptance.
Over the weekend, watching women and men and children all around this world of ours come out in support of equal rights, I understood something else in a new light.
Now, stick with me, because I don’t mean this in a selfish way. I mean this in a human empowerment way. I understood that there are others who feel as I do, and who feel completely different than I do. Others who have had experiences like I have had, and who have had completely different experiences from what I have had. There are others who have powered on through chaos like I have, and in ways I’m not even aware of. Others who have made sacrifices for something they know is the right thing to do, however unpopular it may make them, and others who quietly do what they do and stay under the radar to stay alive. I understood there are others who live the daily paradox of what it means to be a strong woman in our world.
Over this weekend, solidarity has rooted me in ways I have never felt before. I feel connected to others in ways I have never felt before. I feel purposeful in ways I have known, but hadn’t fully realized until now. I feel empowered as one of many human beings alive today, and I’m ready to continue understanding more of what life is like for others, in an effort that we come together, be generous listeners, to seek to know what we don’t yet know, to understand what we don’t yet understand, and to empower one another to ensure that “equal rights” isn’t just a philosophy, it’s an evolving way of being as well as A HUMAN RIGHT that we, together from our many perspectives, will fight for.
I know I’m not alone in that feeling. And I LOVE that.
Also over the course of the year, given the chaos in our country, in our brief time in history, I looked more directly at what it is that I’m here to contribute. What comes next as we march forward. What torch do I carry alongside others? And in finding my way to this, I honed in on a few facets of humanity I care passionately about:
Compassion, equality (including but not limited to feminism), empowerment, and emotional honesty.
Because all of this begins inside of me (I cannot, for example, write with any kind of emotional honesty if I’m not being honest with myself), I will be fair and say that, a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have said something that I knew could potentially bring bullies and trolls my way. And now, in the aftermath of 2016, I’ve concluded that that’s okay. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. And I will not be indifferent in the name of keeping peace.
I will keep my compass dialed into what is important to me. I will use my voice on this journey. As Margaret Atwood said, “A word after a word after a word is power.” I will carry a pen for power and a sword for protection.
I will not be indifferent.
I will stay rooted and connected, seeking to root deeper and connect further into places I have only, until now, dreamed of.
I will not be indifferent.
I will celebrate others on their journey who are doing the work to carry the light, likely in the face of trolls or bullies or worse. Much worse. I will not be afraid of misunderstanding so that I may move toward understanding. I will share my spirit and recognize when others are doing the same. I will be a generous listener when there is a new perspective to be learned. I will speak with intent when there is something to be said. I will do my best. And I will be patient with others doing the same. We are not alone. We are stronger together.
We will not be indifferent.
As Gloria Steinem said on Saturday, “This is a day that will change us forever because we are together.”
I wholeheartedly agree. And I’m so grateful to be alive right now. With you.
And this is only the beginning…of a renewed charge toward equality. Here we go (again, still). Together.
Xo Isla Dean