A Letter for 2023

Kelsey Breseman
4 min readJan 16, 2024

Every year brings growth and change, but some years bring change that could not have been imagined. 2023 has been, by any measure, an extraordinary year.

My long-term job with EDGI finished as a Civic Science Fellowship in March: several years of working on data to support environmental justice communities closing out in a week where I was already trying a next thing, learning and writing about maple syrup tapping on a friend's Minnesota farm. I had a couple more contracts in the same vein, helping NASA understand the challenges EJ communities face in accessing data, and building mapping tools for New Jersey university students to learn about water quality, but the major role was done.

Thematically, I pursued rest. I tried — exhaustingly, expensively — to conceive a baby using purchased sperm for over a year. This involves not just the thing itself but various types of daily self-measuring, and emotional turmoil towards the close of each cycle. It didn’t work. Pausing this process was almost as hard as continuing: it’s not known for getting easier as you get older. But I wasn’t okay, and that doesn’t work either.

Activism has been a main theme of my life since early 2016. I've been through the full cycle a few times: nerves, learning, leadership, frustration with everyone who doesn't participate, acceptance, guilt in diminished volunteering, pride and power, finding a sustainable role, letting the role grow, burning out, teaching others... The causes are worthy, the communities always oscillate between supportive and infighting. I think it is adrienne maree brown who points out that most people come to activism in the first place because they are not okay. There is grace and beauty there, but there is also pain inherent to fighting a mighty status quo. Even small wins can feel like losing; gains are meager; each participant has their own reactions to change.

In the spring, I taught an activism cocurricular, "Practical Civics," at my alma mater. I am so proud of the students who are interested in developing and acting on theories of change. I am letting myself move into more of a support role on volunteer causes.

I didn't take summer quarter classes. I finished the spring course of my master's in data science, and later determined to finish the remaining four courses in the fall. Friends…

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