taking action



It’s been over two months since my last post. To tell the truth, I’d actually been struggling since July or August about whether or not I wanted to keep blogging. I like writing and connecting with people, but writing specifically about my finances and student loans just wasn’t feeling like the right topic anymore. I considered slightly altering the topic of the blog. I considered drastically altering the topic of the blog. I considered deleting the blog altogether. I considered simply ignoring the blog.

And then the election happened, and my perspective—on a lot of things—shifted.

To be clear, I do still think student loans and personal finance are important topics to think and write about. Learning how to pay attention to my money was a great step forward for me in becoming a Responsible Adult. And if you’ve been following my posts up until this point in order to cheer me on as I pay back my student loans, then I appreciate that, and I truly thank you. And rest assured, I’ll continue to pay them off. I’m just not going to write about them anymore.

But I am going to keep writing. On a different topic, one which you may like a lot, or may not like at all.

Last weekend I went to the Boston Women’s March. Going to this event was important to me because it was an opportunity to march in support of a number of causes, including racial justice, women’s reproductive rights, the protection of immigrants’ civil rights and liberties, and the critical need to take action against climate change, among others. Plus I just wanted to exercise my right to freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble. My original plan was to catch a train downtown, meet up with friends, hear Elizabeth Warren and the other speakers, participate in the march, and grab some lunch.

Haha. What actually happened was that I stood on a subway platform with hundreds of other people for over an hour, watching as full-to-capacity trains rolled in and out of the station towards Boston Common. When I finally squeezed onto a train, I had already missed the speakers, and the crowds and near-total lack of cell service made it impossible for me to actually locate anyone I had been planning to meet. Eventually I decided to just be there and experience whatever I could experience.

It’s difficult to convey how many people were at this event. I’m very familiar with Boston Common and the surrounding streets, but I kept getting disoriented because everything looks different when it’s covered by a vast, tightly-packed blanket of human beings holding large signs. I read later that the crowd was estimated at 125,000. When the actual march began, it was more of a slow shuffle. I took photos mostly by holding my camera above my head and clicking blindly, like this:

I really wish I’d planned ahead enough to bring a sign. But that’s okay. I had never been to a march or protest before, at least not that I can recall. Next time I’ll be prepared.

Because yeah, there will definitely be a next time. And that’s what I’m going to be writing about here from this point forward.

Like a lot of people in the United States (and beyond), I’ve been growing increasingly upset over the past two months about our new administration—and by “upset” I really mean a whole shifting array of emotions, including panicked, depressed, angry, distressed, appalled, disbelieving, and helpless. This past week since the march has only intensified my feelings. (Now we are banning refugees and immigrants?? And cutting off funding to life-saving health organizations?? And pretending climate change isn’t happening?? And being asked to accept “alternative facts”??)

You could argue that one option would be to just turn off the news and assume everything will blow over. But that approach doesn’t feel realistic or responsible. If there is anything I can do, I have to—and want to—do it.

The thing is, I’m pretty new to all of this. My background in political activism is mainly of the “I’m a liberal, so I discuss important social and political issues at dinner with my liberal friends” type. And, okay, discussing issues with friends who mostly agree with you is all well and good. But, as I should have realized earlier, it’s definitely not enough.

So as of today, this is a blog where I write about my journey figuring out how to become politically engaged, how to better understand the issues, how to fight for causes I believe in, how to be a better citizen. I’m not a journalist, I don’t have any special information, I’m not an expert on any political issue, and I’m not especially politically-minded. What I am is a regular U.S. citizen who wants to figure out how she can help make a difference.

Here is what I’ve done so far:

  1. Voted in the presidential election. (For Hillary Clinton, in case that wasn’t clear already.)
  2. Donated to the ACLU, NAACP, Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood.
  3. Signed a whitehouse.gov petition asking the president to release his tax returns.
  4. Called my senators to ask them to vote against several Cabinet member nominees.
  5. Contacted my senators and U.S. House representative to ask them to work to get rid of the global gag rule, which is endangering the health and lives of women and others worldwide.
  6. Contacted my senators and U.S. House representatives to ask them to work to get rid of the new immigration ban, which, in addition to being totally unnecessary, is in complete opposition to the spirit of this country.
  7. Called my MA state representative to ask her to support a bill preventing future discriminatory registration systems for Muslims/anyone and a bill preventing private phone/Internet use from being monitored without a warrant. (Thank you ACLU Massachusetts for this suggestion.)
  8. Attended the Women’s March.
  9. Read the Constitution. I’m pretty sure I had not read this before as an adult. I will be re-reading it again soon.

By the way, I highly recommend putting your senators’ phone numbers into your phone. Calling is scarier than emailing, but from what I understand, it’s the best way to get your point across. Here’s an article on why calling is better than emailing.









Some next steps I’m planning are:

  1. Attend the March for Science if I can (I’m waiting for the date to be announced…).
  2. Watch for other protests/marches/events that are happening locally. I’ve missed several already due to not finding out about them beforehand, so I need to figure out what mailing lists to get on.
  3. Continue to connect with other people around the city/country/world for ideas and inspiration and organization. So far I’m doing this partly through mailing lists, but primarily through Twitter. For all its faults, Twitter is an amazingly powerful tool for spreading information and building movements.
  4. Vote in all elections. Not just the big ones.
  5. Improve my knowledge of U.S. history, which is sadly lacking. I have a looooooooooong reading list. First up is The People’s History of the United States.
  6. Improve my understanding of the history and current state of racism in the U.S., which is also lacking. Same with feminism. More loooooooong reading lists.
  7. Figure out which issues are most important to me so I can target my efforts a little more. This is tough because there are so many issues at stake right now.
  8. ??? (I’m looking for more suggestions!)

I’m sure this new topic will continue to evolve over time, but that’s the beginning of my journey. I understand if you don’t want to join me, but I hope that you do.

If you have any suggestions about actions that I (or others) can take, please let me know in the comments! And if you’d like to post a comment in disagreement with anything I’ve written above, I only ask that you do so politely and respectfully. I promise my reply to you will be polite and respectful as well.

18 Comments on “Pivot

  1. Good morning! I’ve been reading your blog for several months now, but I haven’t commented until now. I’ve really appreciated your take on personal finance, and I’m looking forward to following along as your blog pivots in a new direction. The election has been a huge eye-opener for me, and I’m working hard to improve my awareness of some of the major issues that you highlighted. If you’re open to it, I would love to hear more about your reading lists. With so many books on the topics of U.S. history, racism, and feminism, it can be hard to navigate where to begin. Thanks!

    1. Hi Sandy! Thanks for your comment. 🙂 All the books on my reading list are ones I pretty much stole from other lists; here are a few:

      “Fire Shut Up in My Bones”
      “Between the World and Me”
      “Uprooting Racism”
      “The Origins of the Urban Crisis”
      “Making the Second Ghetto”
      “Not in My Neighborhood”
      “We Should All Be Feminists”
      “Muslim Girl: Coming of Age”
      “You Can’t Touch My Hair”
      “My Life on the Road” (Steinem)
      “Half the Sky”

      I’d love your suggestions too if you have any to share!

  2. I think the part I liked most about this was your willingness to be strong in your convictions AND have conversations. That really came through for me in your last few sentences. Glad the blog is back!

    I couldn’t march, but I can and will continue to write, call, donate, and use my teeny platform to support my beliefs and support others. I’m so inspired by you.

    1. Thanks, Penny. I’m a bit scared of some of the potential conversations, but I’d like to have them anyway — Both the talking and the listening parts of them.
      Yay for writing, calling, donating, and using one’s platform!

  3. Right there with you Sarah!

    I struggle everyday to write something for the blog. It’s such a time commitment that only other bloggers truly understand.

    I’ve been off and on with the blog for the past few months, it just gets hard to dedicate the energy to post. So I end up having like a half dozen posts scribbled out with no structure on my Evernote. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I’m with you on the Trump stuff. To me it’s not liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. It’s about a man who has shown time and time again that he only cares about himself. I’m pretty sickened by that fact. Can he please get over the fact that he lost the popular vote and had a smaller crowd in his inauguration and just run the country? That stuff doesn’t matter – he won. Have some class and try to appeal to the people who didn’t vote for you for once.

    Rant over.

    Keep writing. I’ll keep reading. 😀

    1. Hey Vic! I agree, we’re past partisan issues at this point. This about truth vs. lies and courage vs. cowardice. I’m totally with you on the rant…

      We’ll see how I do with the posting going forward…it’s definitely a challenge!

  4. I’m glad you’re still with us, Sarah.

    I think all the things you’re doing are good steps. I’d like to encourage you to seek out the WOC who have been doing this activism work for all the times that we have had the option to not do it – their experience and knowledge are invaluable and they more than deserve the support we can offer.

    A message I hear over and over from white women who are aware and black women who have been on the street: white women have an immense privilege that can be wielded for good or ill simply for being white and women. The vast number of white women at the Women’s Marches had a great deal to do with why the police didn’t show up militarized, armed to the teeth, and seeking confrontation. That’s something that should be brought to bear to protect those who stand with you.

    On Twitter, you may already follow but if you don’t, for a start on racism, off the top of my head: Mikki Kendall ‪@Karnythia, Trudy (@thetrudz), @feministajones, @luvvie. It’s not comfortable, but facing the reality of racism and how it’s affected real lives shouldn’t be. For signal boosting of related activism and racism issues: @kristenmchugh.

    1. Hi Revanche. Thanks so much for this comment. The role/impact of white people/women in this struggle is definitely on my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about the controversy over the Women’s March (i.e. that it seen as being co-opted by WW and because of this was boycotted by some WOC) and definitely need to learn more about the larger issues related to this. I also know I need to figure out how to strike a balance between amplifying these issues through writing about them, but not attempting to speak on behalf of POC. So basically, I have a lot of reading and learning to do.

      Thanks for the Twitter suggestions! I do follow @luvvie already and will check out the others for sure.

  5. Glad to see you writing again and looking forward to your evolution. I know you posted some of the books in the comment, but I’d love to see a full list of the books you’ve read/plan on reading/crowdsource what have you (I too am looking to expand my list). RE: women’s rights, I’d recommend Bad Feminist and echo that We Should All Be Feminists is a great read. Men Explain Things To Me is also good. In addition, the documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” on Netflix gives a decent overview of the second-wave feminism with some critiques as well about race relations within the movement.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations! I will totally watch that Netflix documentary, probably today, and will add the books to my list. And yeah, speaking of my list, right now it’s located in a bunch of scattered emails and notes and links. I will be working on making it coherent so I can share it and get more suggestions from more people. Thanks!

  6. I haven’t witnessed this level of a groundswell in change in a LONG TIME! It sucks that it has to be done, but it’s really beautiful to witness. That’s awesome you’re taking action. I’ve also called some lawmakers (yesterday). I didn’t know about going to LAX to protest until it was too late, which is too bad since I live so close. I’m also glad you’re trying to understand different angles and history. Most people just act based on info from the top level. Good for you!

    1. Thanks for reading, Tonya. Part of the reason for writing about this is for me to keep myself accountable, and so far I think it’s doing that. Man, things have gotten so much worse since I wrote this post; I’ll have to write again soon. Thanks for the comment!

  7. I’m excited to follow along with you on your journey, and to add to your reading list may I suggest Small Great Things? Although only loosely based on a real person, it gives a very meaningful look at privilege.

  8. Sarah,
    I’ve read every one of your articles but have never commented until now. I love your writing and am really glad you’ve decided to continue blogging!
    Thanks for the lists on what you’ve done so far and what you’re planning to do. I’m putting The People’s History of the United States on hold at my library right now.
    Have you read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen? If you’re interested in The People’s History of the United States, you’ll probably be interested in reading this book too.

    1. Hi Diane 🙂 Thanks for your comment! I’ve heard of Lies My Teacher Told Me but haven’t ever read it — it definitely sounds like something I should add to my list. Thanks for sharing the suggestion!

  9. Hi Sarah, I was also at the Boston March. I then took part in a couple of teach-ins down here at my university (I teach at BSU). I would add to your reading list, if you want, Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas and Listen Liberal. Also, Arlie Hochschild’s new book Strangers in the Their Own Land is great and an excellent example of how a scholar can drill down on to issues. My specialty is really foreign policy and I could give you more suggestions if you want to go there. Look forward to reading more.

    1. Hey Jason. 🙂 I loved What’s the Matter With Kansas! I read it when it first came out, which must have been around 2003. It was the first book that helped me start to understand modern day politics. I will check out Strangers in Their Own Land — thanks for the suggestion!

      That’s so cool that you study foreign policy. I just read that article “The Obama Doctrine” by Jeffrey Goldberg about Obama’s foreign policy and found it super interesting. It’s a new topic for me for the most part.

Leave a Reply