Rain soaked my clothes and fogged my glasses; the cold shook my body. Wet socks and shoes encased my numb feet. I was sure my clattering teeth would crack. Strangers, as well as my teachers and classmates, jogged past and into the warm building just behind me. I stayed put.
The day started with markers. Cartoon animals and bubble letters covered the canvas. It was nerve-wracking to think that so many people would be seeing my work. It was an elementary piece of art, but behind the basic colors and obvious erase marks was a message. A sign with a message that everyone would see, and know that I stood behind.
With my masterpiece in the back seat, I began the familiar trek to my high school, the same one I had taken that Friday morning. The research was done, facts known by heart. If anyone should ask, I would have an educated answer. But this time was different; anxiety built with every minute. Unlike other events, I was the expert, and the organizer. There wouldn’t be a veteran who knew the answer to everything, nor was my dad there for love and support. Rude remarks, challenging questions, accusations – I had to deal with them on my own.
Grey clouds coated the sky as I arrived, and the light sprinkle from the drive had turned into a steady rain. I ignored the chills because a bit of rain was not stopping me. I found a spot outside the main entrance and gripped the sign anxiously. The event began in forty minutes, and attendees would soon be trickling in.
As show time inched closer, the first few people arrived. They averted their eyes and pretended not to see me. Unfortunately as the number of people increased, so did the wind and rain. As attendees sprinted in, I recognized some, and stood confidently behind the sign. A teacher, a neighbor, my friends’ parents, a few classmates. Most did not know how to react, and used the rain as an excuse to shield their eyes. As more people I knew came, I hoped more would follow. With every pair of eyes on my sign I felt proud of my actions and ideas. A handful of people stopped to tell me they liked what I was doing in standing up for what I believe in. Others were not so kind. When I was met with derogatory terms about women or rude accusations, I responded with a smile and an educated response. At least I was invoking interest, and that was the goal.
Inside, spectators watched a wildlife show featuring leopards, macaws, monkeys and more, claiming to present entertainment and education. Outside was a cold sprinkle of rain, and a shivering protestor. Despite numb fingers and toes, clinging wet clothes, and gawking eyes, I was pleased to be there. The feeling of expressing my beliefs and proudly raising awareness is a wonderful one. I answered questions throughout the night, and hopefully raised some curiosity in onlookers. It was different from any previous animal rights protest I had participated in.This was not going to a protest – this was making my own. I was bringing the fight because no one else was. It did not seem plausible to allow travelling animals in captivity to be showcased at my own high school, and I had to do something.
The experience changed my outlook, in and out of protesting. It was my way of coming out with my ideas, and I could finally talk about it in school. I had always been a reserved person, until organizing my first protest instilled a new confidence. Since then, I have grown to be a more outspoken person, started to overcome my shyness, and am planning my next protesting event.