Roll Up Your Sleeves
When I was in eleventh grade, my history teacher warned me my idealism wouldn't be able to withstand the rigors of the "real world." He was one of those teachers who all the kids (and their parents) love to hate, but he had extremely clear guidelines for what he wanted in his students and I thrived. (It was one class I actually loved to do my homework in.)
He wanted everyone to think he was a cold hard cynic, but why would he have started teaching high school, if not for some spark of idealism?
And here's this neo-hippie girl, who very much identified as a "social anarchist" (which was something I basically thought I made up, but it turns out I didn't really). Who thinks she can change the world. Who thinks the world can be changed.
He warned me. But here's the thing: he didn't try to crush me. (Some of my other, actual cynical teachers did.)
No, I got As in his class. I got to discuss my heart out in class. It was one of the highlights of my year. I was actually very proud of myself for earning As in his class, as opposed to other classes where I skated along and didn't do much and got Bs or As.
(He was fired/ forced into early retirement at the end of my year. There were definite politics involved and I've always wanted to know the real story.)
And I think, in large respect, it is because of his class (and my twelfth grade economics/ civics class, which was even more kick-ass) that I learned, slowly but surely, to marry my idealism with pragmatism.
* To roll up my sleeves and Do The Work:
* To vote. (I've voted in almost every single election in which I was eligible, aside from a few local elections where absolutely no information was given in advance.)
* To create my art and through that, to share my heart with the world. (Hai internets, I love you!)
* To give as much as I can to charity. (Which for me, also includes being kind and generous to those around me.)
* To sign all those petitions and (despite my sensitive nature) to follow and have an opinion about the world around me. (This does NOT mean I watch the news anymore. I do not even listen to NPR as much as I could. But, I do follow basic news and I have opinions based on actual research - and yes, on my ideals.)
It's in the pragmatics that we see change, that we see HOW our idealism can change the world.
Oh, it is an awfully slow process and it hurts my sensitive soul, yes, but I can't give up because I love this world. I love the beauty and the wretchedness. I love the air and the soil and the technology that we've come up with.
I love the choices we have. The choices we have made for ourselves and the choices we don't think about until they are taken away.
I love the questions we ask and the questions we don't think to ask.
I love that we all have the answers locked somewhere inside of us and we just need the right question to understand it.
Yes, I love this world. I am an idealist. I believe, and work towards, a day when we will see the end of poverty and hate.
And, with much love to John Lennon, I know "I'm not the only one." My artists have my back. My fellow idealists have my back. Thank you.
And somewhere, somehow, even that cynical teacher that warned me against what the world could do to an idealist like me, even he had my back. Thank you.