Sunday, August 30, 2009


As we get older, many people's questioning shifts from the what to the how. The looming, nebulous question of what to do with our lives begins to crystallize, and we are left staggering under the weight of how to pursue those passions. What is the venue? Where is the path? What are the channels? For some people, the way seems clear, but for the rest of us, our exposure in life shows us there are multitudinous means to a singular end. We may want to abolish illiteracy, for example, but what is the best way to do it? And not just what is the best way, but what is our best way, given our strengths and capabilities? Should we become teachers, or administrators? Tutors on the side? Politicians? Advocates?

My angst du jour, or perhaps du année is inequities. Life situations lately have left me in tears trying to reconcile why I have so much and others have so little. I suppose juxtaposing the passing of Ted Kennedy - somebody who indefatigably fought to elevate the depressed and abolish inequities - and watching the Pursuit of Happyness only heightened my angst. Senator Kennedy found the channel that, for him, was the best way to make the impact he desired. Yet I am still getting caught in my riling, impassioned over a subject, but feeling helpless to make any difference. Senator Kennedy used his power to help the powerless, a reminder of the nobility possessed by those who refuse to abuse their power. Yet his path is not my path.

I think of an unassuming Bolivian woman who grew up in a mining community and became a strong advocate for miners and Bolivians. The laudability of her efforts, in my mind, comes more from the fact that she never forgot her roots. As she grew in fame and had opportunities to be treated as the high and mighty, she never let her mind wander from her people and purpose. She would ask, "If my people can't stay in a fancy hotel, how can I allow myself such luxury?" "How can I justify having these luxuries when people I love do not enjoy the same?" The solidarity she felt with her people would not allow her to renege on her values, no matter what she was offered. Her philosophy was simple: if they can't have it, then I won't. While her example has always been compelling, I'm not sure that denying ourselves something we have been given is necessarily a long-term solution. But I'm left wondering, what can I do to show my commitment, my passion, to see results I care about? How can I pursue this in a way that complements my natural talents? I feel so lost.