2018 is over. 2019 is before us.

So where are we?

This article is a little different, but I hope you enjoy it. It’s my wandering ode to the changing of the years—and some words of inspiration to those who might be ending this year tired or feeling down, those whose flame is burning low.

Sometimes, it can be easy to feel like we’re not making progress. Like the problem is too big.

Change happens slowly. Even if day by day it’s hard to feel any progress being made, we’re pushing the flywheel and building momentum.

The important thing is that you stick with it. To remember that you’re making a difference, and that you’re not alone—there are hundreds, thousands of other people in this movement working with you.

It’s good to remember that as often as we’re down, others are down too. We all feel the same things, though we may feel certain things more strongly or weakly than others. If you know anyone who needs to be picked up a bit, who’s feeling overwhelmed or thinking about giving up, reach out to them. Tell them that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

We all have ups and downs, and it’s good to talk about these things. When it comes to the downs I’ve experienced, here are some of the thoughts and emotions I’ve had in 2018:

  • I’m not doing enough. I could work longer days, I could work more on weekends.
  • I’m not working on the right things. The things I’m doing won’t push us toward ending animal exploitation. I feel like the things I’m doing don’t matter.
  • We as a movement aren’t making progress. We aren’t significantly reducing suffering, and we’re not getting close to fundamentally changing the relationship between humans and other animals.
  • There are so few of us who care, and even fewer still who actually take steps to solve the issue. The problem is too big. Maybe it’s unsolvable.

The down days come, and that’s okay. “Never quit on a bad day,” the quote goes. There are plenty of up days too.

“Is it true?” vs. “Is it useful?”

Sometimes we might feel pessimistic about the future. But in many ways, this is self-defeating and downright silly. (In other ways, I’m sure it’s valid. But let’s focus on the silly for a minute.)

No definitive statement about the future is true, because the future hasn’t happened yet. Future events are subject to all the incredible twists and turns of the progression of the universe, especially when there are humans involved. Nothing is inevitable, whether good or bad, although some things can certainly be more or less likely than others.

In fact, our attitudes about things are often what serve to create the future. Our views can be self-fulfilling prophecies. As that one quote says, those who dare to try to create the future are the ones who do. Individuals can and do change the course of history. Individuals like you.
Of course it is very helpful to take a hard look at our current success. It’s good to acknowledge the facts. But it doesn’t make sense to attach any judgment or emotion to it unless those things are useful in getting us closer to achieving the goal—and it certainly doesn’t make sense to impose arbitrary limitations on what we think is possible.

I’m not going to say that doubt and self-criticism are never useful. I personally think that many good things in my life have come out of intense doubt and self-reflection about the value I’m adding to the world. How can we choose an effective path forward if we aren’t critically-minded about our selection? But the key is that these things are only good to the extent that they’re useful and constructive. Wallowing in self-doubt for weeks and months, or constantly dwelling in debilitating negative self-talk, are almost surely destructive.

So. 2019.

We have a lot of work to do. We’re not winning, yet. There is immense suffering that’s hard to watch, hard to listen to, hard to fathom.

But there’s also a lot to be hopeful about.

First off, you and I are not alone.

You’re not the only person working on this issue, you’re not the first person working on it, and you certainly won’t be the last. This knowledge should give you the freedom to step back and look at what’s truly important, not only what’s urgent. You don’t have to try to solve all of the problems, because there are thousands upon thousands of people thinking about and working on all kinds of issues, all around the world. The people at Memphis Meats are trying to make meat without killing animals. The people at the Nonhuman Rights Project are fighting for fundamental legal rights for nonhuman animals. People at Animal Equality and Mercy For Animals are conducting undercover investigations and spreading the footage far and wide online. Staff and volunteers with Vegan Outreach are handing out millions (millions!) of leaflets every year. And for every full-time paid staff member of one of these organizations, there are 10—maybe 100, or 1,000, or 10,000—people who are advocating for animals in small and large ways in their everyday lives. There are people dreaming up new initiatives. There are people starting new organizations.

There are people working constantly, day and night, for animals. People like you.

Should you dream big? Of course. We need everyone to be thinking about how we can actually get this thing accomplished on a national and global scale. But you don’t need to run around frantically. You can be deliberate. You can be thoughtful. We need you to be thoughtful about your work. We need you to try to actually create the biggest world-changing difference for animals. Starting with the first step, and continuing step by step, day after day.

Second, we are making real progress.

In 2018, laws for animals were passed. Companies made commitments to change their practices solely for animal welfare reasons. Vegan products continued growing. Veganism became even more of a household term. Animals were rescued. Tons of media attention was earned. More activists came into the movement. More people went vegan.

We continued pushing. You and I are still here. Those are two of the biggest wins we could’ve possibly had.

Truth be told, there will always be big problems to solve—this is something I came to terms with recently. Even if we were to end all animal farming tomorrow, there would still be a lot of suffering in the world for us to try to make progress on. So we should always celebrate the progress we’re making while continuing to look forward to doing more the next year.

Finally, I don’t know about you, but I have no intent of stopping soon.

I feel, like many do, that this is my life’s work—and I won’t stop until we reach the finish line. Next year, we will keep working. The year after that, we will keep working. And we will keep making progress, and we will keep pushing humanity forward, and we will keep creating a better world for all. And though some people will leave the movement, many more will stay—and many more will join. And year by year, day after day, we will accomplish this.

And that gives me hope. And it gives me enough fuel to keep the fire burning for 2019.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Now is a good time to say that if you’re ever feeling the need to just reach out and connect with another advocate, please consider me a resource! I’m always down to have a phone chat with those who are dedicating their time to helping animals.

Here are some more 2018 recap resources, if you want to catch up on everything we’ve accomplished together!

The Animal Movement Project (AMP) is a platform dedicated to building the movement for animals.

We share thoughts and ideas that can take the movement for animals from x to 10x. Our focus is predominantly on animals exploited for food since they account for more than 99% of the animals exploited by humans. The topics covered are often about ways to tie the pieces of the movement together or to fill in the gaps. We focus on connecting people, ideas, and resources to each other.

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