For the last 7 years or so (since graduating from college), I've been a professional political organizer, essentially, working for progressive movement organizations doing primarily new media/online media/digital work, but also spending time on fundraising, action planning, communications, and a few other things as needed.
After a lot of thought and consideration, I'm starting to suspect that I can no longer work as part of the left (or at least, my corner of the US left) and still be emotionally healthy with the stress I deal with all the time. I don't know what to do next.
No big political epiphany on my end, at least not one of the no-longer-a-leftist variety - though perhaps a few on how the left in the US eats itself, how non-profits can easily become a deeply self-destructive place to work, etc.
I'm happy to give details or answer questions on this if folks find it helpful, but I'm beginning to suspect that a. my issues with my workplace are issues I'd find at almost any movement-y organization, and b. that I'm emotionally just not well-suited for this kind of work, no matter how much I believe in it or not - that I'm a hyper-sensitive person who is tired of being beat up by the right (I was involved in a major top story on several major right-wing media outlets a few years ago) and the left (don't get me started) alike. I've spent much of the last seven years thinking I'm about to develop a thick skin for the thanklessness and constant questioning, but it just never ever actually happens.
I also frankly feel like I put in my time on trying to stop the strip-mining of this world - but I can't, in a day-in-day-out professional capacity, totally thanklessly sacrifice myself anymore and get attacked for it. As in, I am genuinely feeling myself burnt out at a profound level. I just can't and won't drive myself to an early grave, or a terminally unhealthy life at the conclusion of which I'll see a world only marginally improved for me having utterly given myself, 24-7, to my work, and not know why I spent my time as I did. (I'm a 29-year-old who has been dealing with more and more health problems in the last year.) I put in my time, and I'm not sure to whom I need to prove anything. I also frankly am having flashbacks to feelings I haven't felt since growing up in an emotionally abusive household. (This earlier question from me might be helpful background
But I weirdly feel like I just don't know what to do now.
I still have my current set-up, for the time being. (I need, in the short term, to be employed; I'm the only active wage-earner in a two-person household, where the other person is in the process of attaining an advanced degree so as to practice medicine.)
But I don't know what else to do: I sometimes suspect that my level of skill is sufficient only because of the relative scarcity of online talent in my corner of the US progressive movement. (I'm no coder, or designer, just someone that figured out social media and CRM email best practices for a mid-sized organization.)
I know that I've long wanted to do something creative; I've done improv comedy for fun in the past, and written a few published short stories. (The idea of writing non-fiction, in today's instant-reaction-sphere of social media abuse and a hyper-mean online conversation that never ends, makes my stomach contract and fill with acid.) For much of the last few years, I've worked in a distributed office, where my co-workers are at different places across the country and I only see all of them at once 1-2 times a year - I think that's led to a net negative and a lot of isolation overall.
I don't even know where to start. Even basic things like, I've known folks at the place I work for four years, and don't want to leave them in the lurch. How to combine that with searching for something new?
Or, what should that new thing be? I've fantasized in the past about a job as a barista or bookstore clerk, that I can do and not think about when I get home, that I can leave behind (sorta like this classic Onion article
), something not in any explicit way political, but I'm not naive - the difficulty of getting a full-time job where bosses can't move your schedule around at will, ensure you work just under the hours needed to get benefits, the fact that I probably can't do that and be the sole wage-earner in my relationship right now, etc., make it just seem a non-starter. Another fantasy would be Social Media Person for a business/cultural-endeavor I like that is, again, not rife with the kind of emotional tumult of movement work: being Social Media Manager for something like a local movie theater chain or a magazine like Fangoria is an odd, probably totally-unrelated-to-reality fantasy I've had before. (I'm based in Brooklyn if this matters.)
I just don't know. I realize how fraught/anxious/out-of-control this likely looks as a finished post. I'm very good at my job, especially under extremely difficult/constraining circumstances: this post is the release of a lot of longstanding tension and anxiety, and I'm not visibly a wreck at work or anything - but I'm starting to wear very thin.