My last post was called “ Why I came to Occupy Wall Street and Why I Left," and I caught a lot of grief from my readers for not giving them what the title promised: I explained why I came to OWS — that’s the easy part — but I didn’t really say why I left. It’s going to take a whole series of posts to properly explain why I stopped working on the movement, but I think it’ll help ease the suspense if I write a few words about what it even means to "leave" Occupy Wall Street. That verb, I’ll be the first to admit, was an inappropriate one.
My first month at OWS was characterized by a wild optimism, a hope unleashed. I lived in a state of constant excitement, running on so much adrenaline I would forget to eat and dropped ten pounds in two weeks. I was surrounded by dozens of others in the same state of mind. I remember one day in late October, crossing Broadway at Exchange Place, wolfing down some street food and barely tasting it, and some girl I’d never met crossing in the other direction said to me, “That’s how you know an Occupy Wall Street protestor: He’s trying to eat lunch while running through the street.” And it was true: We were all running around like maniacs, working our hearts out, because finally we’d found something worth working our hearts out for.
Like many in my generation, it seems, I had waited my whole life for a social movement whose dimensions and ambitions were commensurate with the shortcomings I saw in the world around me. By now, I am convinced that OWS is not that movement. Maybe it will grow into that movement, or maybe that movement will grow out of it. Then again, maybe that movement will never come. But this rise and fall of hope has left me and so many others not less hopeful, but more. It has been suggested that the excitement generated by Obama’s election and dashed by his presidency was re-channeled into the Occupy movement; and so many of us who have stepped back from the movement in recent weeks have departed only to search for a better movement — or else to build one. The shroud of despair, it seems, once torn, is not quickly mended.