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On Reclaiming Idealism

On-Reclaiming-IdealismThis is my last Plenty blog post. 

I’ve spent days wondering how to write a farewell post that gracefully and subtly weaves that fact into a storyline. The obvious choice would have been a metaphor about the serendipity of career transitions during the New Year – but who needs another piece about new beginnings, resolutions, or following your heart? As a reader, nothing sounds more boring; as a writer, nothing feels more stale. And the last thing I want to do in this blog version of a swan song is to leave an impression that’s inauthentic. 

The thing is, I don’t view the world through rose-colored glasses, and the “fresh start” perspective is kind of lost on me. During yoga I’m usually thinking about my to-do list, and even after months of class, my natural response to namaste is an eye roll. My favorite manifestation of the spoken word is sarcasm; my natural inclination is cynicism. I don’t get misty-eyed during romantic movies. Sometimes I don’t cry during funerals. I’m outspoken and sarcastic. 

But above all else, I’m an idealist.

I fervently support a presidential candidate. I am committed to social justice and ending homelessness. I will talk your ear off about intersectional feminism, police violence, and millennials. I have a clear vision of a more equitable and empathetic world. If you ask me, though, the jury’s out on whether or not Washington, D.C. is the place for change makers, or whether or not millennials are a force for good. I’m frustrated by public policy, infuriated by the media, and annoyed by the way people treat one another. 

For me, being an idealist and having reservations about the state of things aren’t mutually exclusive; in fact, the former wouldn’t be possible without the latter. This brand of idealism is nuanced, action-oriented, and resilient, and I believe that it’s the future. Granted, idealism looks a lot different to me than it does to some, who place being an idealist in the same bucket as trying out for American Idol and banking on a record deal. We idealists aren’t sitting by the window, looking out at the clouds daydreaming about a better world; we’re on the ground developing the strategies, tactics, and momentum for real change. Idealism is gritty, it’s hard, and it’s often thankless. But it’s not unrealistic or far-fetched. 

Somehow, whether through time or some kind of fatigue, idealism has been co-opted – and it’s time to claim it back.

It’s time to define the better world. It’s time to bring up the tough questions. It’s time to speak up loudly about injustice. It’s time to consider both working within systems and destroying them. It’s time to exude empathy. It’s time to demand accountability for impact. It’s time to know when to hand the microphone to someone else. 

For me, playing a part in the formation of a better world looks somewhat like a manifesto and somewhat like a lifestyle change. It started by defining myself as an idealist, an intersectional feminist, and a change maker, and by entering the peer-to-peer fundraising space here at Plenty. After learning from colleagues and our clients, it then required some soul-searching about how to contribute the best parts of myself to the social good space, and how to make the biggest impact. And it ends here on this blog by handing the microphone over to the rest of the Plenty team, to continue the conversation.

Let’s reclaim idealism together, and claim the better world we all deserve.


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Topics: Inspiration