EarthEcho Youth Leadership Council member and environmental activist Akhila Bandlora shares how gratitude helps her remain engaged in her activism and avoid burnout. Pictured left Pictured are Sea Youth Rise Up Delegation 2019 (+ Grace Doleshel) - a few of the people who give Akhila hope and joy for the future, for which she is eternally grateful.
Let’s begin with a pregnant octopus named Inky.
She holds thousands of eggs inside her body
as she squiggles across the ocean. Then,
Inky refuges in a cave and excretes her eggs,
barring the den with rocks as preliminary protection
from hungry sea stars, crabs, and fish.
Here she sits for five months without food,
starving herself all in the name of protecting her eggs.
I imagine she names each egg
and assigns them a gorgeous future.
But, I am being indulgent in sharing Inky’s story.
She probably awaits her offsprings impatiently,
damning the patriarchy in biology
and the glorification of giving your all.
Finally, her babies emerge,
and she blows them all out of her den
with her remaining strength.
Slowly and then all at once,
Inky fades away.
In a future monopolized by the threat of climate change and pollution, it’s hard, as activists, to stay centered and to keep going. Climate activism is frustrating, unglorified, and long work. It’s difficult to stay motivated and hopeful, to continue to keep giving your all to a movement that demands it.
I’ve shared this poem about an octopus to remind you burnout is real and the only way we navigate through it is not by isolating ourselves, but by leaning on our communities for support. I’m grateful for the friends I can make stupid jokes with, swap failures with, and cry with, in the midst of trying to stay strong and keep fighting. As we grow in our power, it’s important to remember that we are just people who need other people. Fighting for a sustainable future does not have to be lonely. It can be happy if it’s with people who are willing to fight for you the same way they fight for the future.
I encourage all of you to check up on the people you fight for and the people who fight for you to see how they’re doing. Or, take some time to be grateful for how far you’ve come in your activist journey and the people who made you the activist you are today. We are only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with. This is all to say, I hope you have a kind and hopeful conversation this Thanksgiving, something to give you strength for a little bit longer.