Originally written: November 25, 2019 | Revised: November 22, 2020

Being successful in whatever you do is in itself an act of liberation and resistance.

“Surviving and Resisting Hate: A Toolkit for People of Color” Dr. Hector Y. Adames & Dr. Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas (2017)

I want for this quote to guide me — and us — towards liberation. I want for that. This statement opens up a flood of questions for me, though. I have come to realize that I have thought of liberation mostly in a binary context. You are either in chains or not. Thankfully I see now that the binary in any context is not realistic.

Is it possible for me to perceive life as many acts towards liberation and resistance?

On one hand, the system evolves — chains become more deceiving, incepting all aspects of mind and body. On the other hand, or maybe in conjunction, liberation evolves. Many might say that we can’t win because they are always moving the goal post. Yes. And. Our minds and concept of what is possible is also always moving. Freedom is relative.

Is it selfish to feel liberated, if even for a moment? When I also know that our liberation is tied together, I am not free until all chains are broken. Okay. And can I feel this feeling, though? Can I exist as an individual moving towards personal liberation within a web of systems that remain violent? Can my immense student debt have such power to keep me from liberation? Can I personally feel liberated when my family struggles? When I still get overwhelmed and lost? How will I know what liberation even feels like?

To be successful in whatever I do. What loaded, challenging words: successful and do. What a challenge. What pressure for us Asians and children of immigrants. What do I actually do and why? To move towards liberation, it feels right in my body to focus on what I do to be well above all other actions of do.

  • I ORGANIZE people and documents and meetings and thoughts
  • I YELL for fun and not fun and with friends and at myself
  • I WRITE to decompress and explore and remember and expand
  • I LAUGH because I am great at it and I surround myself with funny people
  • I IMAGINE a world beyond these exhausting structures and planet and galaxy
  • I LOVE my partner and my family and friends and people who love me back
  • I SET BOUNDARIES that are very hard for me to keep
  • I CREATE to sustain and react and destruct

I am grateful that much of this list above is done to earn an income via Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition. That also ties me to even more complications; who am I outside of my job? Is my job my only venue towards liberation and resistance? Yet if I were to work in a space not grounded in social justice, would I be okay?

What feels clear amidst this flood is that to better envision a fully liberated me, I must explore who I am during moments of doing to be well; my acts of liberation and resistance.

In order to be free…you have to look into yourself and know who you are, at least know who you are, and decide what you want or at least what you will not have, and will not be, and take it from there.

“What Price Freedom?” James Baldwin (1964)

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