Drop in the Ocean

I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

Sometimes you’re beaten to the call,

Sometimes you’re taken to the wall,

But you don’t give in.

Sometimes you’re shaken to the core,

Sometimes your face is gonna fall,

Don’t you let it.

–Midnight Oil, “Sometimes”

I want to rule the world. I’d also like to marry Brad Pitt. I don’t think either of those things is going to happen. So I learn to distinguish between what I want and what I need. I’m fairly certain I can live with only 1% of what I want. Since I want so much, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that I expect only a tiny fraction of that. But any less than 1% is unacceptable. 0.99? Fuck off. Not if I’m going to feel like a part of this world.

I am, as many of you know, leaving for grad school at the end of this month. It would be nice to have something to leave behind. I’ve spent the last five years floundering, failing to establish many meaningful connections, get a date, or hold onto a job that I liked. That needs to change. And no, I’m not going to stop bitching until it does.

It’s been a long time since anything has taken my breath away. Getting into Columbia was awesome and a total surprise. Hell, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I heard about Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage. But I haven’t been rocked to my core in almost two years. A couple summers ago, I was a door-to-door canvasser for the ACLU. Canvassing’s a tough gig, as anyone who has done it will tell you. It doesn’t help that the ACLU can be a rather polarizing organization, to put it gently. After a few weeks, I was fired for being unable to meet quota. I understand. Canvassers have to bring in more money than they’re being paid, or they’re useless. But the two weeks I spent on the job were some of the most rewarding of my life. I’ll never forget the first night I made quota. For the first four hours, I made just over $20. Then on the last two houses of the night, I made $146. It was, for lack of a better description, a spiritual experience. My bosses would say that the urgency of the situation made me a better canvasser, but as strange as it sounds coming from a (mostly) secular person like myself, I think someone was looking out for me that night. It made every slammed door and failed pitch worthwhile. And it doesn’t happen often enough.

Most of my time on this blog is spent bitching and moaning about all of the missed opportunities that I’ve suffered these past few years. I’m fairly certain I’ve talked about the friend who was too busy writing a paper to attend my birthday party even though I later made a two-hour car trip to see her on her 21st, the friend who let me hold Doctor Who screenings at his house until he became bored with it and turned his back on me, and the cute guy who seemed like a prospect until I reached out to him and he blew me off. Perhaps it’s tiresome to hear somebody complain about that, but when that’s all you’ve got, what else can you do? I’d love to focus on all of the things that have gone right for me, but there aren’t that many of them. Despite all of the ways that my life has improved since my current troubles began (and it has), I still don’t feel like I’m in control. Good things and bad things happen to me whether I ask for them or not. One day, I would like to ask for something and then get it.

I used to watch a lot of It Gets Better videos. They don’t hold very much appeal for me anymore, largely because I’m through waiting for it to get better and ready for it to, you know, get better. People who criticize that project for being simplistic aren’t really getting the point. It isn’t about happiness. It’s about agency. Telling a bullied teen that their life will improve if they stick it out isn’t the same as saying that everything will be sunshine and rainbows. It just means that whatever happens from here on out, they’ll be the one who makes it happen. There is no point in living life if you can’t make your own decisions. That goes for everyone from Martin Luther King to Hitler. (Although you should really try to avoid being Hitler.) I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: there is no such thing as a wasted life. Short lives, long lives, happy and unhappy ones all have significance to me. The only people whom I have no patience for are bigots. If your only goal in life is to make others miserable, kill yourself. I’m serious.

It is possible to be a great person without being a very good one. I’d like to avoid that. God knows I can be cranky, but I would like to live my life without ever sacrificing my essential humanity in the name of some higher ideal. Without humans to serve them, the ideals are useless. I learned that the hard way. We may all be just drops in the ocean, but as the great David Mitchell said, what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?

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