Thursday, April 2, 2015

Growing Up Fast: The Not-So-Tough Scary World of Adulting

I graduated in December with a triple major and honors and probably could have done a lot of different things or ended up somewhere making quite a bit more money, but by a weird series of highly fortunate events, I ended up at an abortion clinic. I love my job immensely and it's allowing me some of the most interesting, life-changing experiences I could have imagined for life after college. I could never have been happy as a paper-pusher trapped behind a desk all day. In fact, I did that for a little while, working on grant-making to support organizations fighting gender-based violence. Unfortunately, being the person who reviews the technical merits of an organization's ability to affect change is quite a long way from actually getting down in the weeds and doing something about it yourself. I hated it, not because it was a bad workplace, but just because I felt so detached from the very real battle I was fighting. 

It is with such great fervor and passion that I undertake this new job as the most concrete opportunity I have ever had to make radical, important changes to the very bedrock of out social construction. And I am desperately waiting to find someone who gets it. My family and friends are perfectly willing to put up with my bizarre obsession with rambling on about abortion or other reproductive health issues, but it is with the temperament of a parent towards a child who is persistently up to some odd experiment that is only vaguely interesting to adults. Because it is such a deeply engrained structure of my being to know that this - reproductive justice and gender-based violence advocacy - is the most important battle of my life, and probably the entirety of the 21st century in America, I cannot understand that everyone else doesn't seem to recognize it's importance. 

That isn't to say that people aren't supportive. Overwhelming people are more supportive than I ever expect. It starts with the cagey "Oh, I work at a doctor's office conversation," and as the listener demonstrated themselves to be a safe person to share the real story with ends with compassion and excitement that someone is doing this important work. From an elderly person at church who reveals his daughter works at an abortion clinic in Chicago, to a family friend that reminds me to always be careful because he knew an abortion doctor who was murdered, to an OB/GYN who is excited to meet me as a patient and refer her other patients to our clinic, reassurance comes from unexpected places. 

This in many ways mirrors my experience doing field organizing for abortion access. I think we sometimes fall prey to the false assumption that young people will be the biggest advocates for reproductive justice. While tabling at concerts, festivals, and conferences younger people often pass our tables by, I can only assume because for young people, they assume that since reproductive healthcare access has been comparatively easy for them, it is not a problem. It is older people, however, who, over and over again, come up and commiserate about all the work that needs to be done and how important abortion and other reproduce healthcare are. And then it is always followed by a story, a story of how they remember before 1973, and the horrors of having their friends die or become seriously ill or injured because of the practice of illegal abortions. 

I hope more of these people speak up. I was rereading the One in Three Campaign stories today and am just as compelled by their basic mantra as I was the first time I read them two years ago. As Susan Wicklund's book title powerfully reminds us, This Common Secret is shared by 1/3 of people with uteruses in the U.S. Only 1.7 percent of the U.S. population identities as LGBTQ and yet marriage equality is making waves all over the country (granted marriage isn't nearly the most important issues to most LGBTQ-identified people). If one quarter of the third of us who have had abortions talked about it, where could we be?