Optimism isn't just helpful, it's crucial for the work we're doing
From All-Creatures.org Animal Rights Activism Articles Archive


Priya Sawhney, DxE, Direct Action Everywhere
June 2018

Sometimes the fear of having such a great responsibility can be terrifying. And our instinct is to do what's easy. But doing what's easy has never changed a thing.

Life can be so depressing. But we have to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have to admit, I am a really sensitive and emotional person and despite times when I have showed strength, I have a lot of weaknesses. One of those weaknesses is inability to see how things will change and in turn, letting that fear paralyze me. Everything seems so hard. 

When I first became an animal rights activist, I had a dream that my family was going to slaughter a lamb to eat her. I remember crying so hard and being so scared, I went and hid with the lamb for hours inside of a small closet under the sink. The nightmare ended with someone taking the lamb from me and slaughtering her as I watched. 

Even though it was just a nightmare, it's illustrates my approach to life. Full of fear and paranoia. I was so scared when I was in that closet, I know because I remember it so clearly. I was sweating, I was crying (with my hands over my mouth), and I was just thinking about how people in my life betrayed me (they didn't - my family is really supportive and kind). Instead of doing all that, I could have been trying to escape with the little lamb. In doing so, I could have saved a life. 

This always comes back to me. I always wonder, "why didn't I just run?" It's because of the fear. I didn't think that it was possible. That fear resulted in that poor lamb being killed. 

Despite being an animal rights activist for so long, you think you'll get braver and things will get easier, but sometimes it's not true. The rush of emotion has hit me really hard. But there are lessons to be learned here which can make us braver and stronger. 

My best friend in the whole world, Wayne Hsiung and some of my other really good friends Paul Darwin Picklesimer , Jon Frohnmayer, Samer Thomas Masterson, Diane Gandee Sorbi and Andrew Sharo, are facing an ungodly amount of years in prison for doing something good in the world -- for taking a sick animals to the vet. I toss and turn all night, thinking, "how could this be?" "It's not real. I don't live in this world." And wake up in the morning and it's still true. I look at the horrendous images and footage from the largest pig farm in the world, look at news reports about antibiotic resistance threatening human existence, watch news stories about communities of color being exposed to diseases in states like North Carolina from these pig farms spraying waste from massive lagoons into the air. 

Millions and millions and millions of lives are stole every single day. The suffering, the pain, the wounds, the stolen lives, the tears, the blood, the injuries. 

It is all so depressing. It makes me nauseous. Then to think about my role in all these is another layer. "Am I really helping?" "Am I good enough?" "Do I actually accomplish anything to help these animals?" These thoughts go through my head constantly. 

But they are not helpful. Negativity is like a giant smoke cloud that only you can see. You look up and it's there, you look around you and it's gloom effects everything you look at, smell, and hear. 

But I (and all of us) have to look past this cloud. We have to walk through the smoke and find the light. If there is none, we have to be the ones to create it. Sometimes the fear of having such a great responsibility can be terrifying. And our instinct is to do what's easy. But doing what's easy has never changed a thing. 

Please remind me to look up in times like this. It can be hard but optimism isn't just helpful, it's crucial for the work we're doing.

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