The world does not owe you anything. That is one of the greatest truths I believe I have learned in my life. When I was able to release the notion that I deserved something, that the world had let me down, that somebody ought to come and ‘fix’ me, I was finally able to find something worth living for.
Do not be ungrateful! The world has given you life! If you want to change, if you want to make connections with others, and if you wish to live a genuinely fulfilling life, you must go out and create it. Every possibility in this world lies one step in front of you; No organization, no amount of donation, and no amount of lovely words will fill this desire for connection.
I represent nothing and nobody but myself. My impact is much greater when my efforts are authentic, and my goal is simply to connect with others. It works – it is the reason I am alive today.
Throughout life we each seek connections with others but we often make a crucial mistake: we reject connections with those who seem different than us even in the slightest. We expect institutions and elected officials to do something that is impossible – we expect them to create happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
We see injustice in the world and we take up arms on the internet, hurl insults at political parties, and complain to our friends over the phone and over happy hour. But what have any of us done? What has this actually accomplished? There are groups, organized events, and cocktail parties for every cause imaginable yet what connections have they created? We have created a system where we blame the world for societies ills, create groups where we sit and complain about them with like-minded people, and return home to search for more news to complain about.
We are still alone, still not connected to anyone or anything besides ourselves and in most cases not even that! We are desperately seeking a way to make an impact yet in all of our desperation we have overlooked a simple fact: Connection, positive impact, and a sense of belonging begins with our hands. We do not necessarily need million man marches to create change. We do not need badges and memberships to select organizations to make connections. And we do not help anyone by choosing who we connect with – instead we punish ourselves and society altogether.
The connection I speak of, what I believe is lacking in our lives, is one where we show up when the other is bleeding. It is the relationship that stirs us from sleeping to only listen to another howl with pain. It is the realization that others feel our pain because they have taken time to relate to us. I cannot fix anything but I can find a way to connect with almost any person who is willing. The compassion we show, the identification we find, and the sacrifice we make to form these connections is what makes life fulfilling. One must have discipline, yet every good thing in this world comes with a high effort. You will not need to question if you are this type of person – one who is fulfilled and impactful knows it – it shows up in their eyes.
I have seen change in my life – I have experienced emotional, physical, real change and I have seen loneliness vanish from the world – I saw it first in myself. My entire life was changed because people postponed their Saturday night plans to come and visit me in hospitals. I have been treated by very fine physicians, given first class treatment, and am educated enough to understand quite a bit of politics, psychology, and philosophy. While I am grateful for treatment facilities and big ideas I did not find lasting change within these places – more importantly I never believed I was owed any special consideration by these institutions or our government.
The actual change that was created within me and still persists today was made by individuals who wished to form a connection with me. Some of these connections still remain, and some were only present for an hour or two. And this is the confusing part for many, the defining of connection and the return people expect for their efforts. To connect with another person, all one needs is to be authentic with their efforts – to listen with sincerity and to speak honestly. One’s motives ought to be finding a way to ease the suffering of another, and in turn, this creates a bond which provides each person with fulfillment.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge to overcome in all of this desire to connect with others is our at times inability to forgive others or to stop blaming others. Blaming others for our situation in life is easy and is often times enjoyable. It may not seem pleasant to you at any present moment. However, there is no real effort in blaming, and that is why we choose to hold onto it so often.
The pain in being a part of this world involves facing life, confronting the difficulties involved and living through them in order to change your life. Forming connections takes real effort. It takes times and sacrifice, and most people are not willing to put forth this effort when instead they can wake up each day and feel comfortable in their belief that everything is societies fault and they can do nothing to change it. They can change things actually, it is just too damn difficult for most.
Many people look at this world with such disgust that it seems an overwhelming task to make any change whatever. When this lack of action is taken seriously we find that people have given up, though they may still donate to the local animal shelter. People become resigned to life the way it is – they don’t understand others so they stay away, they don’t believe others understand them so they become resentful, and they end up believing this is all too much work so why even put in the effort. The bar is often set way too high – the idea that in order to create change and form connections one must heal an entire country has become the war song of the world. The belief that changing one person life for one day has lost importance and so the effort is no longer there. Once we subscribe to the idea that our impact is too little we resign ourselves to a life of no connection and no impact – we live an “all or nothing” life, and it is always a “nothing” life when put to use.
I have come to believe through experience that forming a connection with someone takes effort and discipline but it is what makes life worth living. I believe strongly that if I can positively impact a person’s life for only one day then I have made a worthwhile change. I believe this because the modification is never only for one day, not for either party. The people who have changed my life were often there and connected for only brief moments, but they are links in the chain of my life. They won’t receive any recognition or badges from me but these people do not need or want that. Once you have connected with others you find the reward within this connection, and no amount of press or praise will outshine it.
I don’t come here and write to tell anyone how to think or what to do – though I have my fair share of opinions. What drives me is not the hope that you will do what I want – my hope is that you find a way of life that is fulfilling for yourself and that alone makes a positive impact on my world whether you live in Brooklyn or Botswana. I do not come here to tell you how I spend my days or to catalogue any success I may have experienced in life – instead I come here to examine how I can be of better service to you and in the process I find a new fulfillment.
I share with you the innermost parts of my life so that we may be able to connect. I may be judged by others, I have given up my anonymity, I have released to you my greatest fears and failures. But what I get in return is far greater than what I get by remaining silent. I find connections with people on a level few are able to. I can connect with individuals who wish to remain anonymous but are still honest. This is part of what has changed my life – it is not easy telling you that at 32 life is still damn hard to figure out. I don’t celebrate every time I say how much I struggle with self-pity and self-centeredness – but I also know I am not the only 32 year old who finds life difficult. If one is honest they will tell you that when confronting life with a desire to create positive change it is often difficult. Forming connections means going right to the source, sitting next to the hospital bed, and telling someone that life can be something worth living. It means being honest, humble, and disciplined.
The world gave me a gift by giving me life, and each time I curse the world and its cast of characters it is like spitting in the face of my Creator. We fight each day to be meaningful people, and throughout this battle, we find that victory rides with us daily and change reside in our hands before we ever leave home. You won’t find what you are looking for at the next fundraiser – you find it on the 20th floor at Bellevue Hospital. The world is waiting for your help – go find your 20th floor.