So This Is What It Takes
By Desirae Gonzalez, Blue Future Spring for Progress and Change organizer
If I were at my dorm, I would have a colorful blur of sticky notes covering my desk, already losing their relevance in my day. If I were not in the midst of a global pandemic and confined to stare at the off-white shade of paint on my bedroom walls, I would be sitting in a lecture, preoccupied with figuring out how I am supposed to navigate yet another system that was not meant for me. The complexity of being a first-generation college student is intertwined with all of the other identities I call myself. I am certain I would have made opportunities for myself, but I am also certain I would have made this one.
I am ending our virtual training sessions the same way that I started them: as a perfect mess of issues beyond my reach, and with just enough audacity within me to believe that I can fix them. I know that it’s instilled within us at a young age to find our calling, but sometimes I just think that we stumble into them. I have a habit of accidentally falling face-first or purposefully jumping into situations. Either way, I know I am not the kind of person that does well with in-betweens. I suppose my time with Blue Future is not any different. I think that on some level, whether consciously or not, I have felt as if I am perpetually stuck in a series of in-betweens. In between the long-winded goodbye of adolescence and the inevitable welcome of my 20’s. In between the uneven sidewalks in the neighborhood, I grew up in, and the streetlights installed in the neighborhood I live in now. Stuck in between Mexican and American. Just stuck.
I did not intend to be an organizer, not until I really knew what that word meant or until I finished my degree, in hopes that it would chip away at some of the imposter syndrome I only learned I had about a year ago. I kept waiting for that one day; One day I’ll be good enough, old enough, smart enough, experienced enough to do this work. One day, I’ll be able to confront the ways that I have just been another statistic to some broken truths about the American Dream. But I am not accustomed to half-way truths, and I am not okay with accepting all-the-way lies.
In our first training, our guest speaker and activist Shay Franco Clausen shared her story and her work with all 120 organizers. But it was almost as if she was having a one-way conversation with my relationship with politics. And for once, my insecurities listened. She told us many things, but what I heard was that I can only move with spite for so long before it starts to hurt. I can only remember that my existence has been politicized for so long before it starts to hurt. I can only move with fear for so long before it starts to hurt. I thought about that for a while that night, long after I left the Zoom and washed my face covered with dried tears. I am still not sure what parts of me were hurting when she said those words, but I knew that this would be the way I would heal. I carry those words with me every day. I hope I have the privilege to share them with other young people like me. I hope I am the change I want to see
I remember the directors told us to think about our “why, why are we doing this work?”, I could not articulate it authentically then because I did not know-how. I did not have the tools then. But I realize now that this is just an unspoken response to institutionalized trauma. A kind of challenge that demands systemic change. But I do not want my advocacy to be quiet, there is no compassion in the way I have equated my resilience to suffering in silence. At some point, I realized that by not occupying my space, in the skin and the body that I am in, I am doing a disservice to the women and people of color who have fought to make sure that I know I am worthy of representation and love and respect. That I am deserving of the very best that America has to offer.
About Desirae: Desirae Gonzalez (she/her) is a junior at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is currently studying Politics and Law and Sociology, along with being a first-generation college student peer mentor for her university. Desirae is particularly passionate about mass incarceration and the criminal legal system, immigration, and education. She would 100% be the person to drop a whole check at the bookstore and sing in the car next to you at the light.