As I went through this past week’s reading, I could feel myself going back to things I thought as a child. I would tell myself to go out of my comfort zone, to be more adventurous than I normally was. But then the moment would pass and I would go on to fretting over every single little thing that plagued my juvenile life, and even my college life today. I remember one of the authors proclaiming that she would wear purple, she would live as wild and free as she wanted when she was older, but for now, in her youth, she would take her place in society.
I know what I will regret when I become old, and after taking this class, I feel like I should do 98 year-old Rhiannon a favor. So when someone asked how can we find balance between societal expectations while having fun—call it what you want; the world, expectations, life in general—reality came crashing down around me.
Sometimes in life, people have to enjoy the little things. They might never be able to see Mount Everest or race to the top of the Great Wall. They have to learn to find contentment in the simple because of the constraints the world has placed on them. Call me a doomsayer, a pessimist, but from my perspective, the world has never been kind to those who are different—those perceived as the “other.”
Okay so if I were to pursue my dream, one coupled with a high risk of little return but enormous joy, that’s great. How am I supposed to feed myself? How am I supposed to be comfortable in a world where only gold garners respect, where it commands safety and security? “Sure,” you might say, “but life is always fraught with uncertainty.” That may be true, but how about people of color? Those living on the economic sidelines? Those who are prosecuted simply because of their culture? You might throw at me all these underdogs of society—impoverished children who become NFL and NBA stars, immigrants who become video-game designers, artists who become the sparks for political change. Yes, they worked hard but had fun with their life, and ended up becoming extraordinarily successful and well to do. But how about the millions of others who weren’t as lucky? The girls and boys growing up in the slums of Tijuana? The Syrian refugees living under the shadow of world contention?
How can they—we—live out our dreams when all they know is survival?
And I know/understand/ realize that we only have this life to live, but how can I pursue my dream knowing that I can opt for the “safe” choice—the STEM profession, the 9-5 office job—and secure my wellbeing in my old age? How will I know that I will be able keep fighting now and even until the very end, when my breath is spent and weary? Why wouldn’t I want to play it safe and feel that I will be okay at the end? Or are we following the assumption that the system is so inherently flawed that we might as well, as Jack Kerouac put it, “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”?
I know you don’t have answers to all these questions, and I know you can’t tell me what to do. Life truly entails “worlds” of difference. We all experience it so uniquely, powerfully, violently, and beautifully different that it would be impossible, foolish even to tell people how to lead their life. And I guess for me, the best I can do right now is to let conviction and sense guide me,
hoping that the arrow hits its mark.