We’re coming up on the midterm elections, and before we know it we’ll be back to the big league elections, so I thought I’d take a quick second to remind you of the power that you have to “be the change you wish to see in the world” (as Ghandi would say).
What I think is important to remember, however, is that your voice isn’t suddenly taken away from you when it’s not election season. You can still get involved and speak up.
This brings me to my story, which I’d like to use as an example of change being made from one college student, literally while I sat in my bed (preface: even if you don’t agree with my politics, the lesson can still apply to you!.
I do have an interest in politics. It’s not my career, or my primary passion, but I feel as though it’s important to be conscious of what’s happening in the world around you, especially now when decisions being made can impact people individually. I’ve written letters and emails to senators a few times (one of which I’m about to explain). That said, I was not a Political Science major, I have never taken a Government class, and I am never going to be a lawyer.
I’ve written before about my endometriosis on the blog before- and everyone who knows me knows that “uterus,” “ovaries,” “period,” and “pelvic floor” are some of my most commonly used words. I would not say that I’m shy about this issue, because I think the discussion of reproductive issues should be normalized-- but that’s a rant for another day.
The thing about endo is that it affects 1 in 10 women in the US, but it is HARDLY spoken about. There’s minimal research on it, few specialists in it, and NO cure. And while I have access to great health insurance, brilliant specialists, and the financial means to deal with it, I’m hyper-aware of the fact that there are millions of people out there suffering with no access to doctors who can help. And, since birth control is currently the primary “treatment” of endo, millions of women rely on Planned Parenthood to access the most BASIC standard of care for a disease that impacts every moment of their day.
OK- prefaces aside. Here’s the story. The summer after my senior year of college, before my magical job offer from UNiDAYS arrived, I was living at home in Massachusetts with my parents. I spent almost every day in bed because of my endometriosis, and I was gearing up for my first (but, unfortunately, not last) surgery.
At this point in time (Summer of 2017), Healthcare in America was a big political argument. Along with this discussion arose the topic of Planned Parenthood, as it was facing a potential future of defunding. Knowing what I knew about the importance of birth control and healthcare, I decided I’d submit my thoughts for consideration, knowing that I’d likely get an automatic “thank you for sharing” return message, as I had in the past.
Elizabeth Warren was my senator in Massachusetts where my family lives, and she was fighting the fight that I believed in at the time. So, from my bed, with my heating pads (yes, plural- endo SUCKS) on, I typed up my thoughts.
I mentioned the importance of considering the actual implications of stripping Americans of healthcare, and defunding planned parenthood. How 1 in 10 women live with a debilitating disease that can’t be cured, only treated via birth control or surgery. How there are few doctors specializing in this disease, and the ones who do specialize in it are expensive, and often out of network. How the decisions the government makes affect the ability for 1 in 10 women to get out of bed and go to work most days.
A few weeks later, I got a note back-- not just an automated note, either. A rep from Senator Warren’s office asked me if Elizabeth could use my letter as ammo on the Senate Floor during the hearing that would discuss Healthcare. I mean, WOW. And, obviously...YES!
A few weeks later, I watched on C-Span as Senator Elizabeth Warren read my letter on the floor of the senate to fight for Americans’ right to access the care that they need. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life-- video below.
But, that’s not all. Fast forward a year, and the organization Endo What? posted a video of the one and only ELIZABETH WARREN discussing the importance of raising awareness of a disease that impacts the lives of so many.
A week later, due to the efforts of Senator Elizabeth Warren (partnered with Senator Orrin Hatch-- see, it’s bipartisan!!!) and Endo What?, it was announced that endometriosis would get federal funding from the Department of Defense for the FIRST TIME EVER.
I don’t want to take credit for the incredible work of the senators and the organization, but I would like to think I played a SMALL part in planting the seed in Senator Warren’s head a year ago. Who knows? Maybe if I hadn’t written that letter, she never would have heard of endometriosis. I’m glad we’ll never know the alternative.
The point in case is this: no matter what you believe in, you have the ability to make your voice heard, and to be a part of the change you wish to see. It took me 15 minutes to write that letter, IN BED, at AGE 21, and it was heard nationally-- and may have even played into a larger movement.
These next two years are big, no matter which side of the aisle you sit on. There’s a lot of work to be done, a lot that can happen, and a lot on the line. Speak up about what you believe in, email your senators, and take a front row seat. It’s your future, too, and it’s irresponsible to pretend that politics won’t affect you personally. So GET OUT THERE and show me what you’ve got!
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