I’ve only ever wanted to change the world.
Fueled by adrenaline and fed by ego, I have blazed through my first three undergraduate semesters believing that, with just enough passion and persistence, I can “make a difference” in the world. Whatever that really means.
And yet, so many people have believed in me and this irrational but romanticized dream. So many people have continued to ask, “What are you going to do next?” – not with the thought of failure, but with blessings of an actualized destiny. Maybe I really would change the world, someday.
And in every moment that I have faltered, every instance in which I have stumbled and guessed and tried to re-invent myself along the way, this dream has been the crutch I lean on. Because I have learned that hard work and dedication is fruitful. I have believed beyond the belief itself that I can achieve whatever it is I desire in this life – because I am an American; because I hold the vision; because I am capable of such a noble dream.
Yet now, I can’t help but reflect on this dream – this dream to change the world, to save the world from its own self-destruction – and realize how unsatisfactory and selfish it really is.
As if the world couldn’t save herself without me. As if the world isn’t already harboring earth lovers in her heart, along with all the destroyers and poachers and degraders. My ego is no less inflated than those who live to change the world in a negative fashion.
I’ve always considered myself a little ‘set off’ from the rest of my peers. My focus has always been forward, and I don’t care to distract myself with teenage indulgences. But, here I am, trying to distance myself from the pack, and I have lost that sense of global community. No longer do I think of the collective work – all the cogs and wheels that drive this engine towards global good – but only of the work I can one day do myself.
I had wanted a name to be remembered. To make a mark. To leave a footprint. To be special and not just extra ordinary. To make this life matter in some self-serving way.
And, you know what, maybe I still could strive to be that speaker at the United Nations pleading for countries and citizens alike to care about the world, to care about each other. Maybe I could be a voice – a loud, reverberating voice that people would actually listen to – and invoke change and inspire commitment.
And I’m not saying that in defeat; I’m not diminishing my individual agency. I’m just speaking and breathing and finally admitting the reality.
So what can I do, then, if I cannot, in fact, change the world single-handedly?
I can live. I can spread my joy and love for learning with each and every person I meet. I can follow my passions – whatever those may be at the moment – and live for each and every day I’m gratefully given.
Because this world isn’t really my world. It’s our world.
This first week of class in spring semester has already convinced me of the Specialized Studies decision I made last fall. But it has also convinced me that I am most comfortable – that I am truly home – in an academic environment. From the minute I step on campus, I feel like I have arrived. I can challenge myself and learn about the world and meet other fascinating individuals.
“The moments where learning turned into laughter; the endless discussions and lectures and thought-provoking questions; the collective sigh of another project; the triumphant joy of passed examinations; the books, the professors, and the moments of true enlightenment — where I learned something I never knew I didn’t know.”
These are the memories that make me ache for university. So, right now, I’m going to just enjoy my time of learning and pursuing. My time of discovery and reflection. My time of humility and acceptance.
My time in our world.
“We’ve got miles left to go / To a place that we don’t know” –Mat Kearney
Until next month,
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