Following the results of the election, I found myself living in extremes. At 100%, I hadn’t even gotten out of bed before I was reading the first of 10-20 articles I would read that day. Every free second was used to make calls to representatives, sign petitions, and to engage. My students and I talked for hours about what had happened and why. These days I flew around with an almost frenetic energy, collapsing into bed at the end of the day. Then came the days of 0%: on these days, I spent all of my minimal energy avoiding the despair that seemed to tail me everywhere. I put in headphones when my coworkers began to discuss an outrageous tweet or more outrageous appointment. I avoided Facebook, unable to handle the headlines that seem to come from a dystopian novel, and not reality. Recalling the sound of my student’s voice when he asked me about the fate of his undocumented parents had me sobbing myself to sleep, feeling utterly helpless.
In one of many conversations with my roommate, Shannon, she reminded me to focus on my locus of control—the arena in which I have power. While I don’t have the power to end injustice in the United States, I sure as hell can do my part.
In the words of Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” That is what this list is all about. These are small actions—little bits of good—but when we take these actions together, we have an overwhelming power.
Read through this list and make a plan—one that you will stick to. The key is to do what you can, when you can. And remember: you are not singlehandedly responsible for fixing this country. We’re all in it together.
Grow Your Understanding:
- Read articles. Before Trump takes office, it’s important that we are aware of his administration and what is happening behind the scenes. While it is important to listen to the inflammatory tweets and statements, keep a close eye on his appointments, plan proposals, and business proceedings.
- Read articles from both sides. To take it even a step further, get outside of your echo chamber and read what people with differing opinions are saying. Patrick Kulp has a great article all about this, where he explains how to adjust your feed on Facebook, and makes suggestions to help you follow a more diverse source of writers and viewpoints.
- Watch documentaries. Shannon, my good friend Jaynice, and I highly recommend Requiem for the American Dream, 13th, and Miss Representation—all available on Netflix.
- Read books. Whether you’re into fiction or non-fiction, read books written by women, queer people, people of color, immigrants, etc. The key is to get a perspective on the world that is different from that of the straight, white male that dominates our discourse.
- Don’t walk home alone. Download the Companion App. I’ve suggested this to colleagues and students.
- Kick some ass. I’ve been meaning to take self-defense classes for years, and now is the time. There are a ton of options, and some of them are free, like this one from CHKA in the East Village.
- Get set with your birth control. Get an IUD or stock up on other forms of birth control. Contact your doctor or Planned Parenthood.
Protect Your Information:
- Put tape over your webcam. The FBI suggests it to prevent being spied on.
- Step up your password game. If you’re anything like me, you’ve used the same password for every account since you were in high school. In order to protect your accounts, use LastPass to create and remember your random passwords. I’ve downloaded it on my laptop and iPhone.
- Set up Two-Factor Authentication for your Gmail. Easy, and now your Gmail is more secure.
- Get a VPN. This article outlines the how and the why.
- Send sensitive emails securely. Download Vitru for extra protection when sending emails with your SSN, home address, or other personal information.
Protect the Environment:
- Recycle carefully. It can be easy to drop a receipt in the garbage or throw that Starbucks container in the nearest trash, but recycling is one way you can made a positive impact on the earth. If you need to brush up on what is recyclable, check with your city. Here’s NYCs guide.
- Compost your food scraps. It’s easy, it’s fast, and if you drop it off each week, it doesn’t even smell! Here is a map of the drop-off locations in NYC. If you’re not sure what is compostable, here’s a list from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
- Be conscious of your power/water use. Flip off the light when you leave a room. Unplug items that are finished charging. Only run the dishwasher or washing machine when you have a full load. All these little efforts add up!
- Use public transportation whenever you can. If you’re a New Yorker, congrats! You’re set up to get just about anywhere via train, bus, or ferry. If you must use a car, carpool. It saves money and reduces the amount of cars on the road.
Use Your Voice:
- Lean into the discomfort. It’s not easy, but this election has shown us just how deeply divided our country is. Avoid your echo chamber, and connect with people who disagree with you. This isn’t easy, so Michael Barbaro has some helpful tips for these difficult conversations.
- Call your senators and representatives. Following tweets from Emily Ellsworth about the effectiveness, there’s been a mass movement to make these calls. This spreadsheet has everything you need: names and numbers of your senators and representatives, a schedule for topics to call on, and even scripts to use. Start local, call often.
- Organize a phone bank. Want to make an even greater impact? Get your friends, coworkers, and neighbors together for a phone bank. Add some snacks and make it a party.
- Sign petitions. This is the fastest, easiest thing you can do. If they’re not showing up all over your Facebook feed, do some Googling or head to popular petition sites like org.
- Write an Op-Ed: Is writing how you process, mobilize, and empower yourself and others? Write an Op-Ed and submit it with the help of the Op-Ed Project.
- Give journalists and media outlets feedback. My journalist roommate recommends reaching out directly to the author if you have feedback for them, keeping it short and respectful, and directly addressing what you disagree on—be it sensationalist titles, cherry-picking facts, etc. The New York Times even gives you the options to contact the public editor here.
Use Your Time:
- Volunteer. Give your time with organizations and people who need your support. I’ve found volunteering to be one of the best and most rewarding uses of my time. NYC Service and New York Cares are two great places to start.
- Think about attending peaceful and disruptive protests and marches like the Women’s March on Washington in January.
Use Your Money:
- Set up recurring donations $5 or $10 a month to organizations that fight for what you feel is important. I set up donations for the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, The Southern Poverty Law Center, and The Natural Resources Defense Council. I would also highly recommend donating to the Equal Justice Initiative, SEO Scholars (I’m biased, I’ll admit), and The Sadie Nash Leadership Project.
- “Buycott”: Use this website to find lists of companies doing and supporting shady things. I just bought my renters’ insurance from Allstate instead of State Farm because of their participation in ALEC and I’ve stopped going to Starbucks due to the treatment of their employees and use of prison labor.
- Support local businesses. Spend your money in locally owned businesses.
- Give the gift of knowledge: Buy your family and friends books or documentaries for the holidays so they can grow their understandings, too.
- Join the Injustice Boycott. Shaun King has organized the Injustice Boycott, with actions that you can take to fight racial injustice, including divestment, boycotting corporations, and peaceful, disruptive protests. I receive an email each day with small actions, and it’s been incredible to feel like a part of this movement.
Use Your Privilege:
- Make your support known loudly and publicly. Writing a status or wearing a pin isn’t enough. Scream it from the rooftops.
- Understand your privilege. This is a great look at what privilege is and how it works.
- Learn how you can be an ally: I’ve found these resources from Everyday Feminism and White Accomplices to be incredibly helpful.
- Join an org. If you want to take this work even further, think about joining an organization or attending workshops that promote dialogue and activism.
- Hold the door for someone. Chivalry isn’t dead, and it is for everyone.
- Give someone your seat on the subway. Even when my feet are aching after a long day, I know someone can use that seat more than me.
- Treat people in the service industry with kindness. Get off the phone, give them a tip, make eye contact and smile. As someone who has worked in the service industry, I can tell you it means a lot.
- Tell the people in your life how much you love and appreciate them. Nothing has pulled me more quickly out of my spirals of despair than sharing love with someone, whether it’s through a text, email, or a hug.
- Invite someone who has no place to go over for the holidays. Jaynice did this over Thanksgiving and I cannot get over how incredible and generous this is.
- Take care of yourself. If you’re stumped on how to do so, check out this list of self-care practices.
- Get reminders. Twitter stressing you out? Use it to get self-care reminders.
- Reach out. Make a list of the beautiful people in your life who inspire and provide you with unconditional love. Contact them when you need that inspiration and love.
- Celebrate the wins, big and small. Whether you just pushed through your anxiety and called your representative to voice your opinion or you organized a massive protest, celebrate it. You are making a difference.
Jaynice: So much gratitude to you for collaborating with me on this piece—through your brilliant conversations and the way you walk the talk. You are a true warrior and you inspire me, challenge me, and remind me why this fight matters. I love you, baby girl. Ayzosh. We’re in this together. Shannon: you’ve been an incredible source of information, a thought partner, and a true support. I’m so grateful for you, girl. Finally, to my students: you get me through the days, my beautiful scholars. Thank you for your incredible minds, your tireless hard work, and your joyful energy. You keep me hopeful about the future. <3
Theresa Pfister wrote this piece for Flux, a forum for those of us encountering adulthood. A graduate of Pomona and with her masters in education, she works for an education non-profit in NYC. She loves her work with SEO, where she is a life-coach/dean/cheerleader/mom for 115 11th graders in public schools around the city. In her free time, Theresa can be found reading her favorite books or making plans to fix the world with a friend over mimosas.