By Caroline Choi

This op-ed talks about using fear and despair as political motivation.

I am a firm believer that fear and despair can be big motivators. The fear of being grounded kept me from forgetting to do weekend chores in high school, and the despair of losing my dorm keys at an MIT frat party inspired me to invent a foolproof system for avoiding another lockout. The fear of facing my basketball teammates’ wrath kept me running my drills faster and faster. It was the despair of discovering that my hometown may soon be underwater because of the climate crisis that led me to environmental activism. The fear that Donald Trump would be reelected president led me to canvas for Democrats in two different states. These are key, tangible moments of catastrophe that I can point to in my life as having spurred me to make change.

I was in South Korea attempting to enjoy my last week in the motherland when my friend texted me that another crisis moment had occurred. “Back here in the dumpster fire of a country this is, Roe is officially overturned,” he wrote to me. A sinking sensation filled my chest, and I felt a familiar sense of fear and despair overcome me. Immediately, I began dreading returning home to the U.S.; I didn’t want to leave my family’s comfortable apartment in Daejeon, let alone my soft bed.

But as much as I moan and groan about life being nothing but suffering, these are the moments that recommit me to social justice movement work. In fact, they give me hope. Because these are the moments that validate my simmering anger and my staggering sorrow. As an activist and a woman, I have been tearful and grateful to find that others recognize these past weeks as a pivotal turning point.

Over the past two years, I’ve had the honor of working with Seed the Vote, a project of Everyday People PAC and a political organization created in reaction to Trump’s election (another historical emergency). In 2020, Seed the Vote volunteers knocked on over 1 million doors for the general election. Without on-the-ground organizers like us, Joe Biden wouldn’t have been elected and swing districts would’ve never flipped. Numerous political prognosticators claimed it couldn’t be done, that certain districts would never flip, and that overcoming voter suppression was impossible, but we accomplished it.