Though I have never met you, in many ways, I believe we already know each other very well. Our struggles have not been identical, yet I am sure we have shared many. The world is a tough place to live in, especially for a person who chooses not to follow the path of least resistance. This is why I am writing you this letter: to tell you to never give up.
Fear is a weapon used to keep change from happening, effectively halting progress. Fear comes at you from all directions. From the government, giant corporations, your teachers, your friends, your family and even yourself. They will tell you: “you are just one person, what difference could you possibly make?”, “what you’re doing is far too difficult” and “your actions will get you into trouble”. Sometimes no matter how long you’ve been in the game, you can feel as though you will succumb to those negative thoughts simply because they never stop. They replay constantly in your mind, dragging you down until you stand petrified — paralyzed by fear. This is exactly what they want.
You may feel alone. You may feel hopeless. You may feel as though the entire world is against you. You may feel as though giving up would be so much simpler and easier than continuing to fight. These are feelings every activist has wrestled with.
I won’t lie to you and tell you that these feelings will ever completely disappear. The truth is, they are always there in the shadows of your mind, waiting for the moment you are most vulnerable to present themselves. They grow and fester like a disease in your psyche, whose symptoms go unnoticed at first, but in time grow to become unbearable and impossible to ignore.
This is the life you have chosen. The feeling of loneliness in a crowded room — of existing separate from the rest — is something that will remain constant. Seeing life as it really is, rather than the façade you were brought up to not question or look past will haunt you at every turn. It is a life of conflict, of grief, and often of solitude.
But it is also a life of gratitude, joy and boundless love. It is a life of honesty and integrity. It is a life characterized by your unwillingness to turn a blind eye to suffering. It is a life of purpose beyond the self.
This world needs people like you. People who are willing to speak the truth no matter where they are or who is listening. People who are willing to act. People who always eagerly ask “how can I do more?”. Because the truth is, these are the only people who have ever changed the tides of history. The world is full of bystanders; those who see injustice happening right in front of them and are too afraid to stop it; who think “someone ought to do something about this” and not doing something about it themselves. The world needs people like you, who will take a stand against injustice and oppression.
I would not ask you to be fearless. To be fearless is to be reckless and in this context is not only unwise but also nearly impossible. Instead, what I am asking of you is to be courageous. Courage is not the lack of fear, but the willingness to overcome it.
Fear seeks to control — to immobilize. In this life you have to learn to challenge your fears so that you can overcome them. You have to be willing to venture out of your comfort zone, do what needs to be done and be willing to accept the consequences. The satisfaction you will get from knowing you are true to your beliefs in times of conflict and uncertainty will far outweigh any negativity you might encounter.
So, dear friend, though you do not know me, have never met me and likely never will, take some comfort in knowing that even from separate ends of the Earth I am here fighting right beside you, pushing you to be better and most importantly, steadfastly believing in our cause: the cause of total animal liberation. We must believe and we must persevere, because to give up means that fear has won, and that is something people like you and I do not allow.
“Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy
[This post was inspired by the question: "What would you have wanted to hear when you were a new vegan? What would have helped?", asked by Letters to a New Vegan as a part of their compilation of letters from vegans and activists of different backgrounds to newly aspiring vegans and animal rights activists. They are considering submissions through January, 2014 of letters no longer than 1,000 words. I wrote this letter to inspire others to be active and vocal and of course, to never give up.]