Sunday, 17 December 2017
When I was eleven, I joined my school's Amnesty International group. I spent hours writing letters and sending them across the globe in an attempt to free prisoners of conscience. I argued with classmates over whether the death penalty was moral. I took books out of the library about human rights injustices and spent hours pouring over them, learning what I could about Gandi, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass. 

The list goes on and on. 

I believed that I would grow up and study philosophy. And spend my university days in study groups debating ethics and morals. (I think what I perceived to be philosophy is actually closer to sociology but I didn't even know that was a thing). I was strong-willed, loud-mouthed and fiercely passionate. 

And well, maybe like all young teenagers, I was also incredibly naive. 

I believed that I would grow up and work for Amnesty International. That it would be my job to research human rights injustices and lead these campaigns. I believed that I would have so much more of an impact.

With an inch of perspective, I can see now that the people that I so admired were not great activists because they opened their mouths but because when they did their words were succinct, intelligent and clear.

I bought a shirt with a Martin Luther King quote on the front:

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

And then somewhere along the line, I became silent about things that matter. 

I can't look back and pinpoint it. Can't say 'that's it, that's the day I became silent'. But somewhere along the way, I did. And I'm not happy about it. 

 Maybe it's social media making it impossible to go more than a few hours without finding something we disagree with. Maybe it's that the surge of online trolls feels inconquerable in a way that my parents and my high school peers didn't. Maybe it's just because it is just really bloody tiring to be constantly standing your ground. Maybe... I've grown up. 

But when I reflect on the last few years, I've noticed that more often than not I have chosen to be silent rather than challenge an opinion. And it strikes me as having been an unconscious decision. I'm not proud to admit it, but upon reflection, my behaviour seems more like that of a stranger than that of my own. 

To a certain extent, I don't quite recognise this silent girl as myself. And I want to change that. I like to think of myself as being a bit older, a bit wiser. I want to choose the battles that I fight more carefully but I definitely want to fight battles. 

Somewhere along the line, the fire inside of me has been extinguished. 

And I intend to relight the flames. 

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