Or: What Darren Did When Sweetless September Went South
I’m a goal-oriented person. I love nothing more than the sweet satisfaction of striking an item off my to-do list. I keep spreadsheets of daily goals to fill in and monitor my daily responsibilities–study for all seven classes, make progress in leadership and immigration paperwork, stop that annoying scalp scratching and relax for ten minutes each day–and filling in the boxes makes my day feel complete. All that time? It accomplished something.
So, fond of alliteration as I am, I’ve imagining Sweetless September since March.
I once wrote about prayer. I said, in four words, don’t pray for me. Apparently two students missed the memo, because right as I took a bite into my lunch yesterday (sitting on a bench outside, enjoying the weather while I read a news story about McCutcheon vs. the FEC) two young men walked up to me and asked where I’d gotten my jacket.
Except–like last time–I knew at once it was a cover. I swallowed my mouthful, “Why, Beta Brand, of course,” I said, and waited for the inevitable questions about faith and God and all the fabric of the universe in between: “May we pray for you?”
This is a paragraph. It should be talking about interesting things–such as how health care systems sometimes overlook obvious actions to prevent the spread of disease, how the media influence rape culture by ignoring the men in society, even how concepts such as fear, love, and God are intricately related–instead it is none of these things.
Instead this is a paragraph that expresses discontent. Instead of writing about issues that matter–such as hunger and homelessness, the significance of voting even in the most minute elections, the implications of advocacy and community building on campus–it simply mentions that none of these things have been mentioned.
The irony is that, for each of these things, if I don’t already have a post written, I have the ideas ready to share–but I have been too busy, I admit, to remember they’re there.
When news of the Royal Baby’s birth broke on Monday, I was listening to Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, talking about the 6.9 million children who die before their fifth birthday. As a proud uncle of an energetic and adorable little five-year-old, I couldn’t help but feel my heartstrings struck by the thought of having missed any of these amazing past few years–or the thought of not having any more years to look forward to.
No doubt the young Prince George Alexander Louis will receive the premier healthcare in the world and all the love any child could need or ever want, but for many children whose faces will never grace the front page of international news, this future is a dream yet to be imagined–and their present suffering is a nightmare for all of us.
I’ve been riding the struggle bus lately, and I’ve been riding it far: Despite the simple tasks I’ve been given on the conference steering committee, I can’t seem to get a single thing done. I thought perhaps I just don’t care as much as I want to–and although that’s partly true, the bigger issue is I’m afraid.
I’m afraid to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’m afraid to risk failure, and if I never try, I can never fail. And I’m afraid to honestly ask myself why I do care–because just maybe I really don’t care at all.
But I’m tired of seeing the same tasks on my to-do lists. I’m tired of feeling I’ve failed myself, failed the committee, and failed the people we’re trying to help. I’m tired of being afraid. So I’m pulling the whistle and departing the struggle bus right here, right now.
I began interning with NCPIRG in November and just days ago I joined the steering committee for the Resolve to Fight Poverty Annual Conference. I joined during our New Voters Project with the hope of helping out where needed, especially with our sustainability projects.
Life surprised us with a reshuffling, and to keep working with our campus coordinator, we pulled together behind the No Hunger, No Homelessness action kit–which was great. We raised a fair amount of money for Feeding America through the National Hunger Clean-Up, and now many of us are coordinating a national conference. That’s not something most people can brag about–not that I’m bragging.
Not only this, my NCPIRG family is just that–family–and I want to keep working with them and helping our group to grow and make a difference, on campus, in our community, and in our entire country. Which is all good and great, mind you, except that since I joined the group, I’ve been struggling to answer a pretty important question:
It was my third year doing NaNoWriMo and I wanted new music to help me set the scene for my story. Gothic. Dark and stormy. Evil. So I searched different forums for suggestions, and when I went to a nearby used music store, I came home with H.I.M. and Skillet and maybe a couple others. I quickly realized, for setting or not, Skillet was an awesome group. I’d loved their music on the radio without even knowing it was theirs.
After two or three, maybe four listens through the CD, I stopped hearing the lyrics and only heard the sounds: the beat, the tempo, the edge I wanted in my story. As the words faded into the back of mind, I would sing them mindlessly… “So many nations with so many hungry people,” I’d say, my hands typing away, “So many homeless scrounging around for dirty needles; On the rise, teen suicide…”
Then today, walking home from work, I had my iPod on shuffle and it threw their sound to my ears once more. I wasn’t singing this time (it draws looks), but I was listening–and I realized, for all these years I’ve been singing their songs, I hadn’t heard a word they said.
When the world didn’t end on Friday, I thought I’d post a revelatory message on Saturday. Instead, I got carried away applying for a scholarship and lost track of time. So, I figured, let’s just read the next lesson of the Pirkei Avot and post it promptly on Sunday. Well, as I decided to finish said application this evening and took something of a nap earlier in the afternoon, time has once more gotten away with me. Regardless, learning is learning no matter what time it happens at (although, arguably, midnight learning is best left for Shavuot).
Some themes get exhausted quickly. The Kardashians, vampires that sparkle, mocking-anythings. Other themes persists for ages. Beliefs in God–or gods–light versus darkness, Tolkien and Harry Potter. Other themes are fresh at first but as time goes on, we tire of them. We want something new. Something novel. Something we haven’t seen or read a dozen times before.