When the decade began I was 26 years old, and it truly feels like a lifetime ago. I laid in bed one morning thinking about what I learned over the last decade of my life, and what context that has in terms of our community beyond myself.
In 2011, I remember feeling inspired and electrified by Occupy Wall Street. I was working at the Tenement Museum at the time, and I would walk past Zuccotti Park after work to check it out.
I loved the community-run libraries and teach-ins, and all the creative ways people were interacting in the space. I remember explaining to my parents on the phone all that I saw and all of the people I met, and that the wild-eyed eccentrics they were being shown on the news were the exception and not the status quo of people participating.
I remember the feeling of being lit up by those moments and feeling so inspired, of seeing a community that shared my perspective that regular people were being taken advantage of and something needed to change.
I had a feeling that this was the start of something big, and sure enough these moments continued through the decade.
In the years to come, I would take to the streets again when Trayvon Martin was killed, then when Eric Garner and Michael Brown were killed.
I remember bringing co-workers who had never attended a protest. I remember explaining to friends and relatives who were not in New York City what things were really like on the ground.
I camped out in a friend's living room during Hurricane Sandy, and joined a bike brigade of devoted neighbors bringing water to people trapped in NYCHA towers.
I was starting to realize that, when our systems fail, our community can prevail. That, in actuality, what we have to rely on one another. our collective voice, and our humanity.
And that, in actuality, it was the differences in empathy and concern that were also our biggest threat.
Meanwhile, I was finding my voice personally. I was standing up for myself at work, learning to ask for raises and how to search for new work when my current job wasn't cutting it.
I was learning to see myself not as the victim of circumstance, but as an agent of change, both in the world as well as in my own life.
I sought mental health care and learned to tell the truth about my experiences. I learned that all I had endured was not my weakness or my shame, but my strength and knowledge that I could lead from.
In this decade, I've seen two beloved young friends die. In those moments I saw all that he could have been, left unfinished. I saw all the unresolved concerns and ambitions left to go to the grave with them.
And I realized that I, indeed, have one and only one life to live. And that what I do with this life, right now, is all I can control.
In the last decade we've had dramatic uprisings, dramatic global elections, and catastrophic environmental situations. I've learned about power - global power and people power.
I've learned how finite our time on earth really is, and that the power I choose to exercise with it is up to myself alone. In 2020, let's give up being victims and continue to work harder at being agents of positive social and personal change.