I have started reading the news. As it turns out, the news is actually quite fun to read! There are millions of articles, well written, that stoke the mind to think and to question. And I am loving it. I started out with a subscription to the New York Times, because I liked what I’d read from them as well as their font. Immediately, reading the New York Times in the morning with a cup of coffee became a fond daily ritual. I started checking it during my breaks at work, eager to soak up what was going on in the world. I wanted to be informed.
When I first got sober, I did not want to be informed. I knew that resentment was dangerous, and figured that I did not have the luxury to involve myself in politics. It would only make me angry, frustrated, and helpless. When I was in high school and I felt those things, usually I would just listen to “Change” by Taylor Swift, crawl into bed, and cry. I hoped that one day the world would get better. But now, I make an effort to stay informed about things. And, instead of feeling helpless, I feel more in a position to act than I ever have before.
How I used to bury my head in the sand reminds me of how I dealt with doing bad things. I would act without thinking, impulsively, because I had convinced myself that if I did selfish and unkind things without taking the time to stop and think about it, it somehow became less my fault. It was a mistake, not emblematic of my character. I was afraid that if I was confronted with a situation where I was tempted to do the wrong thing, and I stopped and thought about what I should do versus what I wanted to do, and I did the bad thing anyway, then I would realize that I was a bad person.
But I surprised myself when I found that I could stop, think, and ask myself what the right thing to do was, and most of the time I actually would do the right thing. I had underestimated myself. Thinking I had no willpower, I took the decision making away from myself so I didn’t have to accept any of the blame. But I learned that I have the power to say no.
When it came to the things going on in the world, I felt similarly powerless. I used to torture myself by reading the worst things, immersing myself in anti-gay publications, looking for something. I don’t know what. Maybe I was just looking to be unhappy. It certainly worked. And when I got sober, I didn’t trust myself not to return to that same self-castigating behavior. I figured I would just continue to torture myself, that I couldn’t be trusted because I did not have the strength to actually be inspired to affect change by what I read.
And when I eventually started following the news, I did find myself falling into that. I would get into arguments with my boyfriend, testing him about every little thing I read that Trump had done or conservatives were saying that I found distasteful. “How could you agree with this?” I would ask, as though he himself had done it, or better yet, had even communicated his feelings about it to me. I was still reading the news in a bubble. I had found a new form of self-sabotage, this time with regards to my mental health and the stability of my relationship.
I worked myself into a fervor about Milo Yiannopoulos for months, horrified and furious reading the heartless and casually cruel things that he said. I would argue with Wyatt about whether or not there was anything redeemable about him at all, and criticize Wyatt for the words of Milo as though they were coming from him.
But they weren’t. In fact, Milo’s words didn’t really have much of an effect at all. I slowly began to realize the flaw in how I was looking at the world. I saw all of the hateful things that people said, and believed that they were more powerful and destructive than anything I could ever say or do. I didn’t see the strength that I had in my own words, and that rather than spend all of my time despairing about what others were saying and doing, I could be spending it saying and doing things that I viewed as helpful and positive.
My voice is just as strong as anyone else’s. And I am willing to fight to make it heard. Negative ideologies and casual cruelty will only drown out my voice if I choose to let them. And today, I do not choose to let them.