No Biggie

I’m just one person in a sea of 7.6 billion. So, I shop fast fashion, I throw away clothes that don’t fit me, and I don’t pay attention. Because it doesn’t matter, right? As a young adult navigating the world for the first time, problems that seem out of reach don’t usually cross my mind. I am now taking a class that’s main goal is to simply make me aware. I’ll be completely honest, I’m ignorant. Ignorant of problems that very well have an impact on quality of life (mine and those around me). Ignorant of how lucky I am. Ignorant of how bad things are around me. There’s a word I learned a few years ago that applies perfectly to this concept; “sonder”. It describes the feeling that you are the main character no matter what. That you are the focal point and everyone around you is simply in a supporting role. Now the thing with this is that it applies to everyone, so although I feel sonder in my own life, so does the person sitting next to me and the person sitting next to them, therefore we are all ignorant of the supporting characters. This is my problem: sonder. I am so unbelievably self-centered that I can’t be bothered to open my eyes to the world around me. Here I am, walking around blindly, knocking things over at every corner and never turning around to pick them up. Sonder. Imagine you’re walking in a hallway and there are cones covering the floor, but you’re blindfolded. In our minds, we have to get to the end of the hallway one way or another, so we just start walking. We knock over everything in our path to reach our end destination. And it’s fine because the cones weren’t crucial to us. But they were vital to supporting the stability of the hallway, and we knocked them over. Maybe it doesn’t matter right away, but eventually someone will come through the hallway and slip. And still, it doesn’t matter to us because we can’t see it. Sonder. This is what’s holding me back. If the first step is noticing the problem, where do I go from here? How do I start to take off the blindfold? Unfortunately, I have no advice yet, nor do I know where I go from here, I am simply stuck. Stuck in a cycle of immense selfishness and ignorance. But here’s what I’m trying. Closing my eyes; breathing, in and out. Counting to ten and starting again. Who says I can’t start exactly where I am? Who says I can’t acknowledge the path I’m going down and do a full 180? No one. That’s the beautiful thing about life; it’s quite literally never too late to make a change. Whether you’re just a normal college student or you’re the pope. Start wherever you want. What if I am the president of the United States of America and decide politics just isn’t my thing? Start again. Now that might be a little extreme and slightly frowned upon, but I think you get the point I’m trying to get at. The fact that it’s never too late to turn around makes me wonder. Is this true as a nation? Can we stop the path we’re going down? I would love to say that I think we can but trying to get seven billion people to stop seeing themselves as the main character seems just a little more complicated than it sounds. This is the problem with finally becoming aware of the state of destruction: nothing’s going to change instantly. So, I’m left feeling a little worse than I started. Yes, maybe now I’ve started becoming more aware, but I’ve traded that for a feeling of impending doom. DOOM! What a horrible word. That really doesn’t make me want to trade my oblivion for awareness. So how do we focus less on what will happen if we don’t make changes, and more on all the good things that could come from a lifestyle shift? Let’s trade our statements. Instead of “global warming is always going to be an issue there is no way to completely fix it” switch it to “if I walk to class 3 out of the 5 days of week instead of driving all of them, I can reduce my gas usage and I’ll feel better physically”. It’s an ‘if’ ‘then’ contribution. If we make a small change, then what will benefit us. Because like I mentioned previously, human beings are not going to want to make a change unless they see a direct impact on their wellbeing. Why do you think so many gym memberships go without being used? Because as humans we can’t wait for the change to occur, we need immediate change. The same is to say for harmful actions. We aren’t going to completely stop something unless we see that it is immediately having a negative impact. We vape because it doesn’t hurt our lungs right now, we ignore the fact that in 20 years it will impact us. We don’t workout because it takes weeks to see results and even then, if you don’t stick with it the results fade. So, here’s our problem: we’re incredibly impatient, self-centered creatures. This is why no changes are being made and this is why it’ll be hard to start making changes. Unless we find a way to explicitly show the results our actions will have (good or bad) no human being is going to want to change their already “perfect” routine. We have to strike with empathy, we have to appeal to a person’s sense of better self before any real changes can be made. And even then, it’s risky business. Strike with empathy and maybe you’ll impact someone enough for them to make a change, or maybe you’ll strike a nerve, and they’ll ignore it for their own better good. “If I ignore the problem, it goes away,” is the world’s biggest understatement. Yes, it is out of our path, but all we did was trade with someone else out there in the world. My problems become yours: no biggie.

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