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You @ 25: Finding Myself Through the Good Fight

ROI Solutions | You @ 25 Molly Shangraw

Twenty-five seems like a lifetime ago! It’s also when I started being … me! So, I guess that makes sense.

At 24, I took a giant leap! I moved from a very rural area of Northern New York to the big city of Boston with a few hundred dollars in my pocket, two suitcases, and a promise from my sister to feed and house me for two months while I found a job and an apartment.  My first job (along with an internship at a publishing company) was as a part-time canvasser practicing boots-on-the-ground activism with MassEquality.  I thought the publishing company route would be the career path, and I did land a job after the internship, but I quickly realized it was not for me!

From 2005 to 2007, there was a concerted effort from various right-wing and religious organizations to change the MA State Constitution to outlaw marriage equality, a right only won in MA with the MA Supreme Court decision in the landmark Goodridge Case in 2003. There was much to defend and so much work put in to preserve this new legal victory for LBGTQIA+ folks. It was fragile, and the outcome was always uncertain in each legislative session where the joint session (the “Con Con”) voted on whether it could be a ballot question.  And there were many wins and losses along the way.  I digress – at 25, I rose through the ranks of MassEquality’s canvassing program, from knocking on doors to get folks in touch with their State Reps and Senators to leading a field team to become a full-fledged field organizer. I volunteered in the office when the canvass team took a winter break. I also ran the field operations for a nasty State Representative race in western Massachusetts (Primary and General, and we won!). I spent 6 weeks organizing and setting up the field office for the big vote on marriage in New Jersey.  (We came away with Civil Unions. Like I said, you can’t win ‘em all, and it was notable progress in 2006!)

I lived and breathed this life. I worked 16 hours/day for a year and a half. I was fighting the “Good Fight.”  I learned about myself. I attended my very first Pride. I found the courage to admit to myself that I was a lesbian. I came out to my friends and family. I grew up. I found new friends in the movement who remain a cherished chosen family. I found my voice. I found courage. I found confidence. I found joy. I found myself! I also learned that no one can keep up that kind of schedule! And if you’re good at it, the point is to work yourself out of a job and move to the next campaign.  

At 26, I settled into a job at GLAD (GLBTQ+ Legal Advocates and Defenders – the folks who brought us marriage in the first place and continue to do fantastic impact litigation for the LGBTQIA+ community with a focus on youth and trans rights) as a data entry assistant for the Development department. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was very happy to be there! I figured it out and fell in love with the data side of fundraising. I quickly became their database coordinator, and I was fascinated with how fundraising worked. I supported whatever was needed for GLAD to raise the money to fund their amazing work.

14 years after leaving GLAD, with a stint at another database provider company, I find myself at ROI Solutions! I am fully and joyfully myself here. That freedom and the passion of our clients’ world-changing work drive me to do my very best work.

The picture of me at 25 is my 25th birthday with a friend at my very first Pride (and my first Red Sox hat purchase because it was raining!) The 41-year-old me is still at it, attending a local rally after the overturn of Roe v.Wade. 

This is part of an ongoing series of You @ 25 blog posts where ROI Solutions staff, clients, and partners reflect on lessons they learned at 25 (or through 25 years of professional work) that still guide their path today. Do you have a story to tell?  Email [email protected].

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