By Mariana Galvez
As I am sitting at home waiting for classes to start again, with my fourth cup of coffee, a copy of This Bridge Called My Back (that I bring with me everywhere), and a long list of applications I have to fill out, I start to think about how much my life has changed last year.
I remember that around this time last year, I was filling out an application to work with The Brazen Project. Back then, I was still a freshman with a biochemistry major hoping to go to medical school. I also remember having a very vague idea of what an abortion even was; I hadn’t really thought about it.
As the semester went by, and as I worked as part of the Brazen team, I started to become more and more interested in reproductive rights and abortion access. We worked to help people share their abortion stories and even to be less afraid of the word “abortion.” I worked with my amazing team planning events, tabling, or just talking to people about abortion–boldly and without shame. I started to become a leader. I became passionate about abortion access.
As I learned more about abortion, I became less engaged I with organic chemistry or calc 2 (which I was taking that semester). I realized that I wanted to fight for people’s access to healthcare, not just provide it for the people that can afford it. I changed my major to sociology and gender studies–and ultimately what I planned to do with my life–and I could not be happier.
By the end of the semester, I started to ask myself, where does my community fit into all of this?–I’m a proud queer Latina immigrant, and started to ask myself if that was even relevant. I learned everything I knew about reproductive rights from the Brazen Project, and I am still so grateful for that, but I knew that it was time to do my own research. One of my mentors suggested a few books to start–Undivided Rights being one of them.
That was the start of me researching RJ, and it was how I came across COLOR. I volunteered with them for the first time June of this year, and I immediately fell in love with their mission and with the team. I felt that I found a family and found the work I wanted to do in my life. Ever since then, I have done whatever I can to work for the needs of my community–especially regarding the reproductive lives of women of color and QTPOC.
With that, I want to end by saying that this work feeds my soul, and that is why I am so involved. I want to say that self-care is not just this capitalist-informed idea of bath-bomb, face-mask, candle-lit nights (although those are nice as well). Self care can be about finding and building community. Self care can be about doing what you love to do and doing what feeds your soul. Self care can be about being open to change and growth. Last year, I found my self care with COLOR and some other communities I am a part of. I’ve found that working for justice can exist in the form of being kind to others with love and forgiveness. It can also be about anger, because that is a powerful and valid tool as well (as Audre Lorde tells us). It can be about validating our fears, our frustrations, and our sadnesses. It is also about knowing when we are wrong–because sometimes the biggest impact we make happens when we acknowledge our own privileges.
The start of this new year can be about changing habits, but it is important to love and celebrate our old selves, too. Because our old selves are survivors, they have grown, they have learned, they are fighters. They have led us to who we are now, and we should be proud of ourselves–flaws and all. Let this year be a year of growth, of self care, and of kindness.