Looking at the ally continuum, I bounce anywhere between awareness and advocacy, depending on the situation I'm in. Visiting family for holidays, I've learned it's best not to say anything about certain topics. It will end in tears, unkind words, and cold dinners eaten alone. I haven't found any infallible solutions to engaging with people who don't want to listen, but I hope to in the future. I also often remain silent when hearing uncharitable comments from others, unless it directly affects another person.
At work and in my free time, I generally see myself see myself as either aware or an ally. Most my hobbies directly involve advocacy and community education. I work in a field that's been tied to advocacy and politics even though I don't feel either should need to be a part of the conversation. My least favorite thing about explaining my job to others is having to politely respond to their misplaced reactions. I don't think human decency is worthy of a thank you-- it should be a given. I don't want sympathy-- being told how hard my job is is incredibly demeaning to everyone involved and frankly, just not true. I especially don't want to be told I'm brave-- I sit in a cubicle (actually a couch, now), reading and writing emails for most of the day. Once someone told me I was a hero. HARD NO. I'm FAR from perfect, and there's nothing special that sets me apart from anyone else. Suggesting otherwise shifts the blame and minimizes the ability of others to do their part.
Because my position involves hiring staff, I also spend a good deal of time asking people why they want to work in my field. Consequently, I spend a good deal of time dissuading people from working in my field. The number of applicants I have to contact who want to get into the position for the wrong reasons is absurd. There's the saviors, the voices for the needy, the power-trippers, the upper middle-class grads who taught English at an orphanage for a week in "Africa" (come on, at least figure out what country you went to!), the wanna be civil rights warriors and social justice superheroes, the humanities majors with a lot of guilt, the # woke white people, the self-assured seniors whose experience doesn't actually fit the listing, the ego junkies, and so many others.
I should take a moment to acknowledge that there's definitely different schools of thought on whether a person's motives truly matter if they're putting good out into the world, but on an office level, it kind of does. It's good for a person to try to do good things, but if they aren't in it for the right reasons or aren't self-aware enough to know how they fit into the equation, things can get messy. That goes for any field.
All of this might sound incredibly bitter, but I genuinely love my team, my job, and my field (also, humor just doesn't seem to translate well through text). I think it's important for anyone interested in getting a human rights, civil rights, or social justice career to take a hard look at themselves and ask why they want it so badly. If their answer doesn't sit well with themselves or others, I'd hope they commit to work on themselves and revisit the question at a later date. It's never too late to become a better ally, and honestly, none of us should ever stop trying.