This has got to be the worst time to be alive.
That’s the thought that runs through my head every time I turn on the news, or open Twitter, or have a conversation with anyone about the state of the world.
And it’s not just because of the clusterfuck known as our current political landscape, it’s the fact that I’ve been dealt such shitty cards. Why couldn’t I have been around for the Women’s Movement? Or the Civil Rights Movement? You know, something with substance. Why does my defining historical moment have to involve a reality TV show host turned psychopath?
You see, I always wanted to witness history. I always wondered what I would do in those moments, who I would be. If I’d go along with the crowd or if I’d be brave and rise up. If I’d go to marches and organize sit-ins and make picket signs in my bedroom. What would I do? What would I say to people I disagreed with? How would I handle these events?
And it’s funny, because now I actually have my chance to see how I’d behave. Now is the time for my revolution. This is where I finally get to see what I’m made of. And if I’m being honest, I’ve been kind disappointed, because it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything other than complain on the internet.
I truly believe this is a revolution. It just doesn’t feel how I thought it would.
I guess I had the tendency to glorify history. Maybe it was because I knew everything worked out all right in the end. I went into it knowing I was reading about heroes who sacrificed everything for a greater good. I noticed the beauty in every action because I knew how it all played out. It’s easy to do that, to notice the good, to savor the flavor of courage when you know how the story ends. It’s a lot harder to do when you’re in the thick of it and unsure of what happens next.
Martin Luther King, Jr. started a revolution. We know that now, in hindsight. We praise him now, in hindsight. We celebrate his bravery and his courage and his quest for unity now, in hindsight.
But maybe in the moment? Maybe those people at Martin Luther King’s protests felt like it was the worst time to be alive, too. Maybe they were frustrated and fed up and worried they weren’t making a difference. Maybe they wanted to rinse their hands of humanity, to give up on America, to start over somewhere else.
Maybe when you’re in it, a revolution doesn’t feel like a revolution- it feels like a grind, like trying to run through mud. It feels like getting up and reminding yourself – yet again – that you’ve got work to do. It feels like turning the other cheek and choosing forgiveness instead of getting into that fight with your coworker. It feels like logging onto the internet and reading about that idiotic thing Trump did and rolling your eyes and pushing up your sleeves and doing the work anyway.
Because things are happening. It might not feel like it, but they are. Progress takes time. Martin Luther King worked tirelessly for a decade. It wasn’t all marches and protests and speeches on Capitol Hill. A movement is not a highlight reel. It’s small, daily actions strung together by people who refuse to give up.
For millennials used to instant gratification, patience can be a hard concept to grasp, especially with something as important as a political revolution on the line. But that’s what we need: patience. And the courage to get up every day and do our part.
It’s easy to glorify the past and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. It’s easy to see the good and the value and the sheer importance of what they fought for. But if MLK was here right now, I bet he would tell us that the truth is, revolutions are hard. Change feels impossible. Progress seems unlikely. But you journey on. You keep going. You keep fighting.
And when things seem like they’re not moving and you’re not making a difference, remember the effect you have in your community. You have a responsibility to make your little corner of the world brighter. You have to take ownership of your actions and your thoughts and your words. You have to organize your own revolution.
As Dr. King said, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Find your footing. Dig your heels into the ground. Feel the earth between your feet. This is your moment. Don’t run from your revolution.
Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.