Everywhere, I look around there are challenges burdening people. Some are trivial, some are heart-breaking. Some are losing loved ones to disease, some are struggling to make ends meet, some are trying to hold onto the small family business, and some are simply caught in the mad chase of life, yielding to what we’ve knocked ourselves into thinking is the utopia.
As a writer, I’m constantly selling myself to editors, trying to convince them not only is the idea intriguing, but that I’m the right person for it. Why would I be the right person for a story? Because I’ve gotten all the accolades, because I’ve published in so many “leading” publications, because I have the resources and contacts for this kind of story? Rarely, does passion, love, fervor for the story come into play. Why can’t I write because I write decently and genuinely love what I write about? Why so many other pressures? Why do I have to prove myself constantly? It’s the endless selling of oneself in today’s world, the endless marketing, the endless chase to the top. Technology has only helped us do that in many ways – all the social media platforms, I’m advised, are ways to market oneself. Use them widely and you could be a global “name.”
But they don’t understand. I don’t want to be a global name. I just want to write stories that feed my soul. I just want to do some good. I want to use my hands to build something. I want to use these platforms to learn from others. Can I not be silent and listen to what others are saying? Must I also chime in? Must I also constantly bother others?
I have young students in high school come to me, seeking advice on how to get into a particular institution, how to market themselves for different colleges, how to get the top spot at an internship, how to do the “right” activities that will get them into the right school, then the right internship, and then the right job. I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted hearing them and I’m exhausted by the chase, by the quest for the ideal.
And yet, that ideal is what’s breaking around me. Friends in comfortable jobs complain of boredom, stagnation, bureaucracy, lack of creativity, inactivity, and so much more. Why don’t they leave? They can’t, they say. Why not? You’ll survive on less money, I tell them. But how can I let go of all these years of hard work, how can I let go of this “title,” that I’ve worked so hard for, they respond, anguished by the thought of even abandoning the so-called “ideal” world.
They’re not bad people, not even greedy really. They’re just caught in what increasingly we’re told is the right path, the way to succeed. Eventually, it’s the house, the family, the school tuitions, the bills, the car that begin to burden them and it’s too late. Their burdens are far too heavy to escape, to fly freely.
So, the cycle of consumerism sets in. The little purchases fill a void; it’s the tech gizmos, the vacation home, the fancy dinners out, the extra car. But, why? Do they really love these things? I doubt it. Rather they bring a short moment of excitement, a short excursion from the mundane, the thrilling detour that quickly loses its charm.
I recall the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, the one that endlessly exclaimed, “I’m late. I’m late. I’m so very late.” It’s as if we’re all too late, too wound up in what we’re told, chasing something; then, smack, somewhere along the way we realize, that in our tardiness, we’ve lost track of time. For now, the days have slipped by, the years have too. We must be content with what we’ve built. We must make ourselves fit into the box, be it the lifestyle we constructed, the job we took up, the “dream” that we achieved.
But why not be free? Why not savor time? Why not dismiss what we’re told? Why not put all that energy, fuel, money into something that helps others? Why not let the chase be for a different cause – for a gentler, kinder, more people-friendly dream?
Why not be a kite once in a while and fly against the wind? Why not be free from the burdens that we’ve placed on ourselves? Why not get others to join us?
After all, I hear that “kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” Or so Churchill tells us.