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You Can Leave Without Hating

Posted in Life, and Occupy Wall Street

I’m in New York City, and so far the trip is going well — apart from the part where I lost my wallet, including my ID, when I took a train into the city. I’m supposed to get a new debit card today so at least I won’t be broke.

Don’t be this little guy when you leave Occupy. Photo by Mindaugas Danys.

This post has been bouncing around in my head for a few days. I’ve seen this pattern many times over since Occupy began, so if you think this is about you it might be but you’re far from the only one.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you found out one of your friends was moving away or going to a new school, or maybe you were the one changing? I do. Very often, one of us would pick a fight with the other. Rather than deal with the grief of losing someone you care about, you make up an excuse to hate them or get angry. Anger feels powerful and righteous in the moment, so much easier than the pain of loss.

It seems like this happens in activism and social movements, too. Life changes, like it does — a new job, or other change in circumstances, prevents continued involvement. Yet whatever group we’re involved with doesn’t vanish without us — it continues too, growing and changing just like you are. You could handle this maturely, by accepting that without your influence your beloved comrades may choose to take your movement in different directions, or make decisions you did not anticipate.

All too often, however, people seem to go from active activists to passive-aggressive Facebook trolls. It’s easier to tell everyone how much you hate the movement, how it has abandoned everything you thought it stood for — and to do so over and over again after every decision — than to deal with missing your friends and the good work you did.

Let me just say this — you can take a break. If you feel burnt out, step back. If you have to leave because of life, respect the autonomy of your friends. When things change again, there will probably still be a place for you to return — as long as you haven’t burned all your bridges in the meantime.

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