An Activist With Creative Block

[Female, thirty-one]

I grew up in Wisconsin, a really shy kid, very sensitive. I feel that I’m an ethical person at heart.  I’ve always loved animals. We always had dogs, rescued dogs from shelters, and cats.  I remember going to the local humane society when I was in kindergarten and getting my first kitten.  She lived for fifteen years, a good life.  When I was around five years-old, I had a little “save the ants” campaign.  It involved telling people they shouldn’t step on ants.  Of course, at the same time, my friends and I liked to sharpen popsicle sticks and poke each other with them!

When I was in high school, after a failed attempt at being vegetarian, I read Diet For A New America by John Robbins. After reading that book, I went vegan right away.  It was the ethical arguments.  It was the way he describes the day-in, day-out life of chickens, pigs, beef cows, dairy cows. They’re tortured every day.  I was shocked and horrified and sad that I didn’t know any of this.   I stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs, threw out all the leather I had.  My parents were really supportive, they actually went vegetarian, they’re still vegetarian and so is my little brother.

In college, I ran an animal rights group. We would table every week in the student union.  It was hard for me to talk to people, try to get people to come to the table and ask me a question. Or I’d end up getting into fights with people.  Now I  talk to people all the time, and I feel that being an activist for a cause I feel so passionately about has helped me overcome my shyness. But I don’t preach to them – it’s just planting seeds.  The seeds get planted and maybe seven years later they’re going to grow in the person’s mind.

I went to college in Milwaukee and studied Political Science and Philosophy. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with that.  Then I applied to Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland Oregon to study animal law and met a lot more activists.  That led to working for a semester for college credit at the Humane Society in Washington, DC.

After I graduated from law school, I went to Japan with Sea Shepherd to educate people about the mercury laden dolphin and whale meat that was being served in the school lunch programs there.  After that I went back to Portland.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer and practice as an attorney. So I moved to the east coast and interviewed at the Humane Society for a job in their campaigns department.  I was in D.C. for almost two years.

But I wanted to try something new.  I took a position at Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine,  but was only there for about six months when a friend hired me to work for her organization, the Galapagos Preservation Society which protects wildlife there by spaying, neutering and finding homes for the  thousands of stray dogs and cats that roam the islands and prey on lizards, small tortoises, iguanas and birds.  She asked me to be her sole employee.  It allowed me to move back to the west coast, which I’d always wanted to do, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I’ve only worked at non-profits for animals, pretty much my whole working life. My work pretty much dominates my life, but I try to have a social life as well.  Most of my friend’s are vegan.  They’re mostly artists or work in film rather than working for non-profits or doing full time animal rights work. It is daunting sometimes, though.  There are days where I feel it’s hopeless.  But there’s always something that gets me out of that.  There’s always one person, one little thing I hold onto.  And there are people I’m around who really care about the animals and the environment, who are so committed and passionate.  Whenever I get down about stuff, I think about them.

I wish I knew what I’d be doing say ten years from now, I can’t really imagine going to work for a business.  After working from home on my own schedule it would be hard for me to go back to an office.  I want to keep doing something that makes the world a better place. Honestly, though, I sort of feel like an artist that has had a lifetime creative block.  So I’m trying to do more creative things.  I’m trying to figure out what I can do, some work that helps animals, people and the environment in a more creative way.  I really feel I should have gone to art school, not law school.


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