Let Us Be Travelers
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” — Jack Kerouac
“You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.”
I am on the forensics and debate team at my school. I compete mainly in acting events, but one of my events I give a speech. I was looking through my laptop, and I found my speech from last year. I have not read it in months, and I read it tonight. I thought I would share it with you all, and, hopefully, you will be inspired.
If you had the chance to change the world, what would you imagine? Some of you would think substantive: halt all wars and riots, end world poverty, find the cure for cancer. While others would think on a smaller scale: lower taxes, free health care, or maybe even change the attitude of teenagers. No matter how immense or minute, a change is a change. The question is why isn’t anyone doing anything to fix these universal problems? The answer?
Because everybody wants to change the world. But, nobody wants to change.
This world of ours, this land of beauty is filled with problems. Think about the hundreds of thousands of people dying each and every day. Think about the poverty and hunger children have to face. The pregnant women who are HIV positive. The little boy that just found out he has cancer. Racism, sexism, hatred of homosexuals. Riots, rebellions, terrorism. Rape, murder, suicide. Drug addicts, adoption, abortion. Halfway houses, or no house. I think all of us in this room would say these are things we all want to lend a hand to, to rally over, to take a stand for. But, what is preventing us; why are we not taking an initiative?
Clearly, we need a change. Today I am going to show you how you can be that change. First, we’ll get to know our ‘enemies’ that prevents us from changing. Next, we’ll realize the importance of change. Finally, we will take it upon ourselves to initiate the change the world truly needs.
I turned on the radio one evening and started faintly listening to the voice of the monotonous man from the speakers. He kept on repeating, “We need a change. We need a change and we need it now.” My mind habitually went to where it usually goes when I hear the word change, “Who is it going to be this time?” What is stopping people from taking that first step of change? This leads me to my first point: knowing our ‘enemies’. We can summarize that with the three F’s: Fear, Failure, and the Future. This is a phrase that requires a little thought. Fear is a feeling we have all dealt with at one time or another. It is something we first experience as children and are conditioned to respond to in many different ways. Now, no human is impervious to this intangible feeling; however, we can learn how to overcome it. Fear has power over us because we allow it to hide in the darkness and terrorize us. The solution to this problem is to shine some light on that darkness, so it won’t be that powerful. Which brings us to failure. As humans, we are petrified of this two syllable word. Failure is simply not an option. However, on the road to success and change, there is a vast amount of failure. Failure should not be a deterrent to your progress and success in life. Failure is an inevitable part of change, and in fact we should celebrate it – without failure we learn nothing. Fail, fail often and learn. And finally, the Future. The future is something we cannot see or predict, and I believe it is this uncertainty that causes numerous of people to hide behind the status quo. It is easier to remain in one’s comfort zone than it is to face the unknown that change will bring. Fear, Failure, and the Future. Solomon Johnson, a trained communicator, once said, “These three ‘enemies’ are within your capacity not only to control, but to conquer.”
You’re either thinking one or two things by now: how can I be that change or when is this round going to be over? This leads me to my second point: realizing the importance of change. Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane and see how various individuals stepped out of their comfort zones and overcame prevention. Writer and activist, Gloria Steinem captured the hearts of thousands of women she has impacted. Through her years of outspoken writings and support, she has proclaimed the freedom of women. This feminist icon was nationally acknowledged as a leader for the women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s and 70s. Steinem campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as other laws and social reforms, to help eradicate countless laws that discriminated against gender. Next, Betty Friedan was the founder and president of the National Organization for Women. She was one of the most dominant feminists of the 20th century. Her bold novel, The Feminine Mystique, served as a catalyst and helped spur on the twentieth century women’s movement. This led to the establishment of lasting benefits for women today. Finally, Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist who led Black Americans through his inspirational speeches, conveyed through the words of God. He had direction and a purpose when he talked about the morals and laws of segregation and when he delivered his famous address, “I Have a Dream.” So, why should you change? Take these influential people as examples. What would the world be like if these three leaders did not take that first step of change and, instead, waited for someone else to take it for them? Women probably wouldn’t have the same rights and privileges as men do today. Segregation of Black Americans and Caucasians might still be in occurrence, having separate seating and water fountains. What these individuals have in common is that they saw something that needed to be changed in the world, in their society, and they took the first step of being that change. Their first steps created opportunities for improvement.
Now that we have discussed what prevents us from changing and why we should change, it’s time for the moment you have been waiting for: to take it upon ourselves to initiate the change the world truly needs. How do we go from merely observing the change, making a note of it, and proceeding to do nothing, to the other option of adapting and taking action? It’s all with that first diminutive, baby step of change. Author Andy Ryan’s book “This Year I Will…” spells out why change is difficult:
Whenever we initiate change, we activate fear (there’s one of our enemies again) in our brain. If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do.
Rather than rejecting ourselves as unchangeable beings, we can guide our change in the desirable direction by developing new habits. You can change the world one habit at a time. Confucius said, “Men’s nature are alike; it is their habits that separate them.” So, how does one develop a new habit? Leo Babauta, an author, proposed a basic outline on his Internet sensation blog of how one can develop habits. Focus on just ONE habit at a time. I want to wake up earlier and go for a job, eat healthier, start applying for scholarships, read every night, learn how to cook, all at once! Even though I might have enthusiasm for all these goals, I’m setting myself up for failure. I know. I’ve tried many times. Write it out paper. It’s easy to wake up in the morning and think to yourself that you’re going to change something about you today. Who among us hasn’t done that? But whether we yell it or whisper it in our heads, it isn’t enough. Write out your motivations, your obstacles, your strategies for overcoming. Log your progress. This is a motivational tool because you want to write good things in your log. Having a log assists you in succeeding because it reminds you to be consistent and makes you become aware when you are not. Babauta summed up the last one effectively: If you fail, try again. This is the beginning of the end of our bad habits. John Dryden, an English poet, once said, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
After today, I hope you no longer have to ask the question, “Why isn’t anyone doing anything to fix these universal problems.” We first got to know our ‘enemies’ that prevent us from changing. Next, we discussed the importance of change. And finally, we learned how to initiate the first step of change this world genuinely needs. Remember our three enemies: Fear, Failure, and the Future? Solomon Johnson came back and said, “May your Fear turn to be your Freedom, your Failure turn to Fortune, and your Future turn to Fame.” In short, we all have the potential to change the world. The Dot Boston said, regarding this subject, “You are not just one person, you are a whole entire being!” Find something you are passionate for and take action! What this world needs are people who are not content with the status quo and are willing to make a difference with themselves and the world. Michael Jackson nailed the concept of change in his song Man in the Mirror, “If you want to make a world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.”
Be. The. Change.
“We all want to break our orbits, float like a satellite gone wild in space, run the risk of disintegration. We all want to take our lives in our own hands and hurl them out among the stars”
I want to personally apologize for not blogging for the past month. I have had a lot on my plate with school and various activities that I did not have time to blog. But here I am! I had Prom this past Saturday, and it was an overall good experience. However, this post is not about Prom or school or the fact that Neutral Milk Hotel is reuniting for a tour or anything that has happened in my life in the past month. This post is about what awaits me in the future that has not arrived yet. With that being said, let me get to the point:
My new passport (I lost my previous one) came in the mail today. I am now officially ready to leave for Haiti in 49 days, and I could not be happier. I have been thinking about the future a lot lately. If I cannot have control of my present, I will have control of my future. I believe that my purpose in this world is to make a difference. With that being said, I want to start a project that I will work on during college and after, depending on how the project is going. I have always had a heart and an emotional understanding to children in third world countries. I want to do something that will help those children because they deserve a better life. I have been thinking about a project for six months now, but I have yet to come up with a definite plan for a project.
If you have any ideas for a project or want to collaborate, comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe that this project, whatever it may be, will be the reason why I am here on this earth. I am sorry this post is short and sweet, but I wanted to get my idea across in the most simple way as possible.
In my Honor Writing class, we were assigned to write a short story. We had to choose one of our journal topics as our prompt. I chose my journal topic “Last Words.” Anyway, there isn’t much more to say. You just have to read for yourself! So… I hope you enjoy reading my short story! Oh, and I would like to give a big thanks to Matthew Canestraro (Vigil Blue) for editing my story and making it truly beautiful!
The Orange Balloon
“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.” – Virginia Woolf
I have never been the type of man to see beauty exist in anything, nor have I ever wanted to be that kind of man. I have neither been nor wanted to be the type of man to see beauty hiding in anything. At the moment, however, I am overwhelmed by inexplicable beauty in the form of rain drops falling outside my window. One, two, three… Something about the rain reminds me of a distant and suppressed memory – one that happened nearly two months ago.
* * *
It was a late September night. The rain was coming down without remorse. I squinted through the windshield and the rain and the dark for the lines on the road, and tried my best to stay between them. My wife Alice was beside me, and our precious little daughter Mary was in the back seat. We were on our way home from visiting Alice’s parents, so naturally I lit up a cigarette to help loosen the knots in my nerves that only in-laws could tie so tight. I opened the window slightly for the smoke to escape.
“Stop that now! Smoking’s going to kill you one day, I simply know it will!” Alice hated when I smoked, absolutely hated it.
“Can you blame me?” I asked with mock exasperation. She was still angry, but I could see the sliver of a smile – her parents drove her just as crazy. I smiled to myself and for a moment, the rain fell and the car hummed and nothing happened. Then everything happened, all at once. I remember Mary was asking when we’d be home, so I turned around to tell her “soon.” But the rain was blowing in through the open window, and the wheel was slick and my hand lost its grip. Alice grabbed my arm and squeezed hard. I looked over at her. She was staring straight ahead, her eyes opened wide and her mouth unable to utter a sound. I tried to straighten out, but it was too late. Our car had swerved into the other lane, and the dim headlights of another car collided with ours.
* * *
My mind escapes the memory of the wreckage and slides forward a month. Two houses were empty after that day – one belonging to a young couple. The other, a happy family. I missed them desperately. There was no one to blame but me. With an inexplicable slip of a hand, I killed four people. And two of them – two of them were… Can a person ever recover from a mistake which killed so many, yet left him alive? I couldn’t learn how to function with the burden of guilt, so I simply didn’t function. I just smoked my days away. I smoked, then I coughed. It became harder for me to breathe. The pain in my heart spread to my chest. I thought the accident had damaged my lungs. The doctor took a couple of x-rays of my chest. He told me I should sit down, and I took a seat. What he told me next is a blur. His mouth was moving, but I heard no sound. Then one word cut through: cancer. The doctor diagnosed it as small cell lung cancer. My prognosis for surviving the next five years was six percent. The doctor was terribly sorry.
* * *