The Day I Realized I Can’t Save The Whole World

It’s official.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

That’s not true. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was four years old, and I knew I was cut out to be one since I was eight and started writing short novels. I love to write, live for it. But I want to be something else. I want to be multiple things when I grow up. I don’t even know how to sit down and pick a career that is molded to all I want to do.

Even before I started in the field of sustainability, I knew I wanted to be a humanitarian. I wanted to help people, to uplift them, to help them find solutions for problems that seemed unsolvable. But that is a very broad role. One does not make a living – or a life, as a matter of fact – from just existing as someone that wants to help people but doesn’t have an outlet to do so.

So for the past six months or so, I went back and forth between a number of potential career options. First I thought I could be in a public administrative role. Then I wondered if I could work at the U.S. Peace Institute. Recently I wanted – and I still do, as a matter of fact – to become a peace negotiator for the United Nations. I want to work with developing nations and help the U.S. avoid conflict.

And now I’m onto another potential career path – one that involves something else besides writing that I’ve loved for my entire life: education.

The day after my overwhelming day, the day that ultimately rattled my dreams and made me question what it was I was doing with my life, I visited the ranch I volunteer at and spent some time with the horses and with my good friend Jim who founded and runs the place. (Allow me to briefly go off on a tangent here and just say this: if you, reader, are ever feeling lost, or confused, or just need a quiet place to retreat to so you can untangle your thoughts, go there. There is nothing quite like being nuzzled by horses.) Jim can read me like a book, so upon being asked how I was, I held my hands up and told him how defeated I felt. And as is usual for me whenever I visit that horse sanctuary, I received a very big wake-up call.

Upon hearing my impossible goals of establishing world peace and ending all poverty, Jim essentially told me to start small. “You can’t save the whole world,” he said, “but you can change small parts of it.”

That’s what I need to do. Start small. I need to stop thinking about problems of international and global scales and instead focus on what I can do here in my country, in my state, in my city, in my neighborhood. And I think I know just the way to do it.

The more I learn about sustainability, the more I see a very big trend in the lack of sustainable societies. This trend is that every society or community that is not operating on a sustainable level generally lacks access to adequate education. Impoverished nations are impoverished because they cannot access education, and they cannot access education because they are impoverished. It’s a cycle. Likewise, with the United States, people who live in poorer areas generally do not have access to good education, and they cannot access good education because they have a lower income.

Furthermore and perhaps more disturbingly, education is not what it used to be. My little sister goes to the elementary school I attended for seven years. I used to have an hour for lunch and recess. She and her classmates now have about twenty minutes. They added an extra hour to the school day, and more days to the school year. She comes home and doesn’t know how to do her homework. Her class size is enormous. It makes me so sad, and I have always wondered if there is anything that can be done to change the way things are done in schools these days.

What if it were possible to change all that?

And what if I could change school curriculum so that kids are learning more sustainable practices and ideas that they need if they are going to inherit our planet? What if I could help school districts come up with fun ways to teach kids these sustainable practices?

What if I could help increase salaries for teachers and help convince the government that education needs more funding and – ?

Ah, well, there I go again on trying to solve a problem that’s way over my head.

Maybe this is my calling. Maybe it’s not.

But whatever I’m supposed to do with my life, I’m confident that it will present itself to me when the time is right. In the meantime, I’ll keep waiting patiently and sit in the knowledge that whatever I do end up doing, it will make me happy and it will be perfect.

In the end, that’s all I want.

Happiness.

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