My name is Sally. I am a 28 year old foreign woman living in Norway. I consider myself to be an activist, but when I tell people this they often look at me either with fear, disdain, mockery or disbelief. Some people might say that I don't look like an activist, or that I don't act like one. Some people say 'you're actually alright for a vegan'. Some people think that 'activist' is bad word that should be reserved for trouble causers, violent protesters or daring individuals that risk their life for the sake of the greater good. Some people think that activists lack education, intelligence or are 'crazy', but this is usually a way that people put others down so that they don't have to take the issues they are talking about seriously. Maybe you don't consider yourself an activist because you think it sounds way too extreme and unfriendly.
The thing is that I'm just a normal person. I've been through some really tough times and some really great times. However, when people find out that I am a vegan or a feminist or an activist, they usually make assumptions about my personality and life which couldn't be further from the truth.
There are things that make my life hard and that obviously affects the way I engage in my activism. For instance, I now live really far away from my family and I miss them. I miss going round to my mums house for a cup of tea or going for a beer with my little brother. I have a chronic illness which sometimes can leave me doubled over in pain with almost no warning at all. I had a childhood which was often filled with violent terrifying situations and have in my life been sexually assaulted on more than one occasion. I'm quite prone to depression and because of the trauma I suffered when I was younger, I am constantly jumpy, on edge, and extra sensitive to stuff like loud noises or confined spaces. Working hard to get through and cope with these sorts of things has made me determined and empathetic to others, but also vulnerable at times too. I can be really strong and that does help me with my activism but I do sometimes need to have a good cry too. I don't think I need to have a constant steely demeanour to be an animal rights activist, I just need to know when to step back and take care of myself. The trauma I have experienced in my life only makes me more determined to fight against the systems of oppression I see around me which perpetuates the abuse I and others have suffered.
There are also things that make my life awesome. I'm really lucky to be able to live in Norway and work here. I'm lucky that I get to share my life with three rescue cats and that I have found myself a caring, smart and funny vegan boyfriend who shares my ethics and passion for activism. I'm lucky to have friends that accept me, laugh at my childish jokes and don't treat me as a weird foreign feminist vegan asshole. I'm lucky that Oreos are vegan, I'm lucky that I grew up in Manchester and can appreciate a good portion of chips and cup of Yorkshire tea. I'm lucky that aside from my chronic illness, I'm in pretty good shape. I'm lucky that I managed to go to and graduate from University. I'm lucky to have a job that means I can afford to have nice stuff and treat myself to fancy chocolates and concert tickets. I'm lucky that I can draw, that I can make apps, that I can tell terrible jokes. There are so many things I can think of to be thankful for, its hard to list them all to be honest. I try to be aware of the privileges that I have in my life and how that plays into my activism and understanding of animal and human oppression.
Maybe my life seems totally different from yours in both its trials and tribulations, or maybe there are a whole bunch of things we have in common. My point is that before you think of me as an activist, think of me as a person, that has a life with ups and downs. I'm just trying to work with what I've got and do my best.
A day in the life of a hardcore extreme vegan feminist bitchasaurus
My day to day is not so different from everyone else's, I don't wake up and spend an hour making myself a raw organic smoothie bowl and take a shower using homemade balms and lotions that I made for myself using coconut oil and flowers picked from my garden. I don't sing the communist manifesto in the shower, and spritz myself all over with a homemade hemp perfume that I innovatively named 'Male Tears' cos apparently as a feminist I must fucking hate all men. Nah. I get up, have a poo, brush my teeth with normal toothpaste and just have some normal first price cereal with almond milk whilst checking through the notifications and emails from the night before. I feed the cats and head off to my job.
That's right, I have a normal full time job. I don't spend my 9-5 patrolling the streets of Norway holding banners revealing the horrors of animal abuse in the world shouting 'WAKE UP SHEEPLE'. I don't spend my whole day doing yoga in the park, and I'm not privileged enough to be able to just take two days off a week to volunteer at an animal shelter or take a year off to go and find myself. I need to work. I need to pay off my student loan. I need to pay my rent. My full time job has nothing to do with my activist work, I design apps and websites. Sometimes I have to make apps for a company that doesn't align with my ethics sure, but I don't refuse to work on it. I need to make money to afford to eat, to pay for my cats food, to pay for the app.
On my lunch break at work each day I check in with how the social media for Vegan Norway is going. I have usually set up all the posts for the day the evening before so that I can be a good employee and concentrate on my work during the day. All three of us at Vegan Norway try to keep on top of the social media as a group effort, but the reality is that as we all work full time, if you get a reply from us during the day, its usually during a coffee break or a poop break.
By the time my day finishes I usually need to do something which is non internet related as I know that I will be spending around two hours that evening working on Vegan Norway stuff. So, I go for a walk, I go to the gym or I just relax at home with my cats watching something rubbish on Netflix. Sometimes it's hard to relax. I can have a lot of stress in my job and then anticipating doing even more work that evening makes me feel burnt out really fast. Throughout the day I get a lot of messages and emails:
Why isn't this place in the app?
Why isn't my city in the app?
You need to change your description for this place?
Can you promote my blog?
Can you recommend a good recipe?
Can you organise an event?
Looking at all the stuff on my phone when I leave my day job can leave me a little overwhelmed sometimes but then I remember something:
I am only one.
I am only one, and I do the best I can. I can't do everything and that is ok. I am only one and it's important that I'm realistic about how much one can actually do. I am only one and I deserve to be able to take a day off. I am only one and I'm not much use as an activist if I push myself to exhaustion. I am only one, and I'm not perfect, I'm just trying to learn from my mistakes. I am only one and I can't reply to every oppressive asshole online. I am only one, but so are all of you. Together, our efforts are tremendous and powerful. It is possible to be a 'normal' person (whatever that means) and be an activist. We are capable of doing so much good & 'activist' is not a dirty word. You are not a bad person for taking a stand against oppression. Just do what you can.
I do as much as I can for Vegan Norway but some days I just chill, and that is OK! I think that a lot of people are afraid of being an 'activist' because they assume that it is a lot of work, but it's not an all or nothing affair. You can do a little bit, and still get on with your life. We all can do something no matter who we are.