I have a problem and I’m going to share it with you.
I want to change the world and I want to have fun doing it. Perhaps if I had five or six lives I’d have time to do it all, pursuing each fulfilling dream career, putting my money and my time into the causes that keep me excited about life. But I don’t. I have one life, and even though I’m in my twenties I struggle with the haunting sense that I’m running out of time.
I think part of my uneasiness is due to the ‘moving sidewalk’ phenomenon my friend Sky introduced to me a few years ago. In short, if you’re a middle class individual in the United States you exist on a sort of moving sidewalk, a conveyor belt of life experiences that starts somewhere around first grade and continues until you finally graduate from college, whereupon you are declared an adult and are expected to get proper employment, a spouse, and a mortgage within a reasonable time frame. The sidewalk stops, and you’re dumped into the real world feeling silly, and alone, and wondering if the last sixteen years of education were intended to prepare you for something or were simply an expensive way of passing time.
The moving sidewalk is waking up somewhere between twenty and thirty and realizing that for the first time in your life the next step is not neatly planned out for you. Some are overjoyed by this realization, others terrified, and still others–with whom I often identify–are paralyzed by the sheer vastness of choice and opportunity. Personally, my own sidewalk is stalled. Like an escalator that’s “temporary stairs,” It is up to me to climb, and I feel at once invincible and powerless because while I can do anything, I don’t feel able to do anything. All this because I am taking a year off from school.
Sometimes I feel like I’m bursting with dreams. I think, wouldn’t it be fun to be a professional singer, or an actor? I love to act. If I became famous I might not only get to meet my screen-crushes, I could put large sums of money into things I really care about, like scientific literacy, museums, and libraries.
Then I think, how cool would it be to become engineer? Math doesn’t come easily to me, but I could push though it. I could be on the teams that build robo-bees to pollinate bee dependent plant species like almonds. I could design beautifully efficient cars, and environmentally friendly modes of mass transit. (By the way, check out this green alternative to high-speed rail.)
Then I get really jazzed when I think about doing, for money, the one thing I love doing most: research and writing on public policy and its impact on human and civil rights. I could finally start that blog about national legislation. I could review bills pending in the house or the senate and break them down into easy language, augmenting the clarification with contextually important statistics, and precedents. In my fantasies, my blog becomes to congress what SCOTUSblog is the Supreme Court.
But despite my desire, I’m not really doing anything to make my dreams into realities. I’m not peddling demos, auditioning at the theatre, learning about automobiles, or blogging about legislature. I profess to believe that now is all I have, that I have a responsibility to make the most of the now, and that these responsibilities include doing what I can to improve human life on earth. Yet, to borrow an idea from John Green (among others), I spend most of my time fulfilling my basest needs and desires: eating, sleeping, making money, watching programs online, and searching for lols. In fact, I think most people live this way.
In the gap between our professed beliefs and our actual beliefs are our actions. I may profess to care about environment or to be sex positive, but if I regularly buy plastic water bottles and tear down other women for ‘sluttiness’ these labels become meaningless, like a map of a town that no longer exists. Our priorities and convictions are revealed by our choices. I may profess to believe in the now but I live as though the now is just time to pass.
This is not what I want for myself, so I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to start my legislative blog. I’m doing research for it now, and will have uploaded my first post by the end of September.
I believe this moment of existence as I live and breathe in this body, on this earth, is all I am guaranteed. This is a gift, and the best way I can appreciate it, is to use it to the fullest.