Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thoughts On...Changing the World

Several weeks ago I was out getting ice cream with my boyfriend. I had just had an argument with my sister about how Native Americans are not delinquents who squander all their casino money on drugs and booze and I was (obviously) feeling rather flustered. My boyfriend kept saying to me, "I don't know why you even bother with her, she's just ignorant" which is obvious - she is ignorant - but there's no reason to be ignorant in a world today where technology and information are at your fingertips. I told him, "Why wouldn't I say anything? How are you supposed to change the world if you don't say anything?" He stopped. "I don't want to change the world," he said after a moment. I didn't even know what to say. I was completely dumbfounded. Why wouldn't someone want to change the world? This wasn't a concept which I'd ever considered. Ever since it was obvious to me that I could make change, I felt the compulsion to - the overwhelming and frustrating need to. I never thought that it was even a possibility for me to sit quiet and not make change.

In early September, I was at a conference on advocacy training. I had volunteered to be a candidate in a test interview. She was talking to me about why I had changed my degree from fashion design to communications. I responded that it was more fulfilling than fashion. I wanted to change the world and this was the best way to do it. We moved on with the interview but at the end the group was critiquing it. From out of the crowd, one of the teachers, a former congressman, said, "I think the most impressive thing we've learned about Chloe is that she wants to change the world." I smiled one of those fake smiles when you actually just feel lost and unable to comprehend anything. I wanted to quip back, "Why would someone not want to change the world?" but I was too lost in the suddenness of his comment, and the suddenness of the realisation that changing the world is something that I want to do, but not everybody else does.

I was dumbfounded. I rolled it all over in my head, wondering why on earth someone would want to stay quiet and not make change? I'm not talking about anything dramatic. I'm not talking about starting a revolution, putting on a cape and spandex and saving the world from some alien invasion. I'm not aiming for anything major. I don't expect to ever be on Oprah talking about my achievements. That isn't changing the world, not the way I want to.

I was in an internship interview a few weeks ago and I was asked what my long term goals were. I paused for a long time and smiled to myself. I didn't want to say that I was going to change the world. I harkened back to a conversation I'd had with my boyfriend when I'd told him that if I was ever going to be on Oprah for anything, I would want it to be because I had created and implemented an education program that eradicated sexual assault and gender violence. I couldn't help but think that if I could achieve that, my life would be fulfilled - I could want for nothing more. (I relayed this to my interviewers...I got the internship and p.s. I love it).

To me, changing the world isn't starting a revolution, or ending one. It isn't having some kid spread your quote all over Tumblr, pasted onto a photo of an ocean or rippling wheat fields. It isn't being famous and having books written about you. I don't want to say, "I want to change the world" and have people think these things. I don't want people to associate my name with some great change. I don't even know if I want people to notice the change. I just want to go into the lives of as many as possible and change their worlds. I want people to stop hating, I want people to stop being violent, I want people to be happy and be open and accept. That's change, and if it's only in the lives of a few people, that's enough for me to feel fulfilled. I already, at the ripe young age of 20, feel like I am changing the world. And that's enough. Why does it have to be big words? Why can't changing the world be simple? Why should it be something that people raise their eyebrows over - why shouldn't everyone want to change the world?

I found this quote the other day and loved it;

“At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Perhaps I am still young and have no yet learned to close my mouth, but I have strong convictions and I plan to live by them. Hopefully one day I do not hide behind them.

(Source: Etsy; Sorry I didn't source this at first. I had found it through a broken link and couldn't find the original artist - if you ever do know the artist, feel free to send me a link but try to stay clear of expletives or assumptions, thanks!)

I don't want to slobber some overdone phrase all over, like "be the change you wish to see." I'm not telling you what is right or wrong. I'm not saying that I am so much better because I want to change the world. I just want to wrap my head around the idea of why doesn't everyone want to change the world? What causes some people - like my boyfriend - to have no desire to? Why are some people ignorant and not worth trying to change? Why is it remarkable to note that someone wants to change the world? Isn't this what everybody wants to do - make the world a better place for those around them and those yet to come? What does it mean to you to change the world?


Milex said...

I am speechless!

Rachel Sullivan said...

Good read!
In highschool when I told people I was a vegetarian, they would say stuff like, "You won't make a difference. Animals will still die because everyone else eats meat." And I was like, "Yeah. But with that attitude how is anything going to change EVER?" I want to do my part to make the world a better place, and sure, I can't force anyone to join me or share my opinions, but that's no reason to give up.


Sonya Mann said...

I find it fucking ironic that you want to make the world a better place, but apparently can't be bothered to source the artists whose pictures you used. Granted, the first image is impossible to source because it's been passed around on Tumblr and etc. so much (which means you just shouldn't use it at all!), but the "Quit Slackin and Make Shit Happen" poster is from ninjandninj on Etsy:

How about making the world a better place by not ripping people off, hmm?

Sorry if I seem antagonistic, but as an artist this really pisses me off.

Laila said...

Well firstly I am so pleased to read such an impassioned post, I often feel like the only person who cares so intensely about these huge issues and the insane, catastrophic flaws in the way the world and current society works. I think I see it more as being the change you want to see (incidentally, I'm not sure what you think is wrong with this phrase? I basically think it sums up very succintly an idea towards how real change is implemented) rather than changing the world though. And I also differ from you in that I don't feel like I hide behind my convictions but I also don't project them onto people - I'd love to influence everybody around me by talking to them but silently being vegan tends to invoke more curiosity and allows me to explain myself to those who care and notice.

I literally just posted my reasons for being vegan and my feelings on animal rights and it has attracted a few interesting comments of people who feel the need to kind of justify themselves against what I have said in the post which is an interesting reaction. I'd be interested to know what you think if you get a chance to read it?

Also, I'm glad to read this post - this is for me what sets your blog apart and the reason I wanted to advertise on it! So thanks for writing it. XX

Sonya, I don't think she's ripping off peoples art because she's not using it for any kind of profitable gain or even to draw people into the post. I think you have been utterly antagonistic and you clearly recognise that, so your closing sentence is very strange. If you didn't want to seem antagonistic why didn't you edit the tone of your comment before posting it? It seems contrary to write an aggressive comment and then apologise for the tone of it at the end and you undermine yourself by doing so.

Sonya Mann said...

1. She has advertising on this blog, so she is profiting from it.

2. The artists who made those images can't gain any traffic or attention from their own damn work if someone else uses it without crediting them! Think about how you would feel if I took your pictures--or your words--and used them without crediting you. It is literally theft via copyright violation.

3. I retract my apology. This is an important issue, and I don't mind sounding antagonistic.

Anonymous said...

Chloe, I think you have already changed the world for many people just by writing this post.
It's nice that you are enjoying your internship.
Keep posting. If it makes people think, then you are changing the world.

Anonymous said...

I love you. Let's hang out. I live in St. Paul. Okay? Okay. See you in 10 minutes.
I want to change the world. I can't imagine not wanting to. But I don't have the confidence in myself, my ideas, etc. etc. blah blah blah. All those boring run-of-the-mill debilitating bullshit insecurities. It's a weak excuse but it's also just something that's...there. Stopping me from doing everything I want to do to change things. And it makes me really sad. So I guess just know that you're lucky that you both want it and also believe that you can do it.
Okay, that took a bit to write, so see you in like 5 minutes.

Meli said...

Advocacy training sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to see what you do in the world :)

Anonymous said...

I guess people don't want to change the world cause they don't think it's their responsibility, or they don't think it's possible to change? I don't know, I'm with you though. If you see something wrong why wouldn't you want to change it, or at least make some difference? I think your conviction is wonderful. To me, changing the world is about "being the change that you want to see" so hopefully others will be inspired to do something similar xx