“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” -Dolly Parton
You could make a big change at any point in your life. The world could be floating along, with or without you, just as it usually does. Then one day you go out for a sandwich, and while you’re eating it in the park, you think to yourself, “You know, I don’t think I’ll go back to work.” That same afternoon, you book a flight to Tanzania and spend the next ten years volunteering in a nature reserve.
It could happen.
Most of the time, though, that’s not how it works. Usually we’ve been thinking about something for a while, and then those thoughts collide with an unexpected external event. Discontent + stimulation = motivation.
Well, surprise! Here’s your chance.
At the time I’m posting this, many of us are still reflecting on the greatest tragedy to strike the U.S. in fifteen years, this one entirely self-inflected. It’s been a time of sorrow and reflection, especially for those of us who expected a much different outcome. Others, of course, feel differently—joyous, even. That’s how these things work—some mourn while others cheer.
Today my therapist told me that almost every client she’s seen this week has wanted to talk about the election. What a world.
— Chris Guillebeau (@chrisguillebeau) November 17, 2016
At this point, what’s done is done. All we can do is look to the future and change the road we walk on, and maybe the world we live in.
So how do we do that? How can we truly be, as the saying goes, the change we want to see in the world?
For me I’ve been thinking about what’s in my realm of control, which certainly isn’t much in a situation like this. I can speak out, sure, but what else?
At the moment, all I know for sure is that I can choose kindness, as I’ve been trying to do more and more in the past 16 months.
The question I’ve been asking of myself is, “What does it mean to be kind?”
One thing that’s emerged from the wreckage: there’s kindness, and there’s kind-ish. Kind-ish is the sort of kindness that we do to make ourselves feel better, or that otherwise has some secondary benefit for us. Many of the times we help people, we’re being kind-ish more than we’re truly being kind.
There’s nothing really wrong with kind-ish; it’s just not all there is. Real kindness goes beyond superficial acts. It gets into the sacrificial, at least to the point where there’s a cost to our choice.
We can also be truly kind, not just sort-of-kind, to ourselves. We can choose to be aware of the uneventful days and moments that define our lives. We can, as much as possible, accept that which we cannot control.
This is a work in progress, just like you undergo when you decide to change direction and book that flight to Tanzania. Facing what feels like a new world order after an election that turned the world upside down is also a work in progress.
There’s more to be discovered, and more to be learned. But it’s a start, and along with kindness, that’s all there is.
Image: Dương Trần Quốc