Finding spaces of optimism in my research can be difficult. My research focuses on violence, unchecked power and targeted violations, which can mean my spending months combing through cases that are emotionally exhausting. I keep at it though, hoping that one day my work will help those most affected, but the process is draining. I had never noticed the toll it had been taking until this year. Focusing entirely on completing my research project has meant, committing fully to studying cases of institutional violence. The stories are heartbreaking and staying present and grateful for the opportunity to hear those stories is far from easy. But my ultimate goal is to do justice to the people who have shared their experiences; it is my job to stayed plugged in so that I respect the access I have been given.
Gratitude and optimism are not the same thing though. Being grateful for the chance to do research and for the chance to do some good, does not necessarily translate into my feeling any kind of real hope for change. I think it is nonetheless important that I make it a priority to find those spaces of optimism wherever and whenever I do work. One such space is finding real joy and hope for the people affected by institutional violence. As much as systems may be broken, not irretrievably though, people prove to be far more resilient than we give them credit.
I have found spaces of optimism in my research and I will continue to find others. Seeing protests in support of social justice and the protection of others gives me hope. Watching young minds critically engage with questions of privilege and accountability gives me hope. And watching the great work community members and colleagues and friends do, makes me feel such profound optimism for the work that I am engaged in. The stories I hear are ugly because the world can be an ugly place. Being able to see beauty and potential, though, is how I honor those who have to face these ugly spaces. Giving up is not an option and believing that all is lost is even less so, so I keep trying to find the possibilities in each case that I come across.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to do research. I never want to take the chances I have been given for granted. I recognize my privilege in being able to choose to study at the University of Victoria and being able to choose the project I am now working on. I hope that I have done good so far and that going forward I can keep helping where I can.