I was highly idealistic at 18, as a freshman/first year of university. A lot of us are, I think. Some people lose those rose-coloured glasses over time. I am one of those people. When you study international relations or international conflict or anything of the sort, you accept that some measure of heartache will come with it.
I am a cynic, yes, but I don’t mean to give you the impression that I hate the world. I don’t. I know how truly beautiful the Earth is. I have seen blazing sunsets and crashing waterfalls and deserts sand dunes that roll on forever and mountain snow so pristine it looks like a painting and the ocean stretch on until it meets the sky. I know all about the goodness that humanity is capable of…I have seen kindness and compassion and simple acts of love.
But it is hard to keep the faith that people are generally good when you read a news headline that announces that there have been more mass shootings than days of the year 2015 so far in the United States. A full passenger plane was brought down by a bomb and fell in the Sinai desert, not only destroying the lives of those whose loved ones died, but the economy of the region as well; bombs went off in Beirut, and then in Paris; a domestic terrorist killed multiple people at a Planned Parenthood; governors in multiple states decided to (illegally) refuse entry to refugees, with one state (Texas, surprise surprise) going so far as to sue the federal government to stop refugees being settled there; hostages were taken and killed in a hotel in Mali.
All this in just the month of November. To say nothing of the smaller but no less terrible tragedies that do not get reported on.
I am so, so tired. Tired of the Islamic State, tired of the hatred being spewed by right-wing Christian extremists, tired of children dying because they weren’t vaccinated, tired of trying to explain why #BlackLivesMatter is the most important hashtag in America right now, tired of climate change deniers, tired of the mass shootings, tired of the Donald Trumps of the world. I’m tired of people dying so senselessly all the time. I’m tired of it all.
This isn’t a note to say I am giving up on the world. I still find IR fascinating, I couldn’t imagine studying or working in a different field. Whether I end up at the State Department, in a non-profit, or with a think tank, I still believe in working hard to leave the world better than I found it.
My best friend is one of the most articulate people I’ve ever met and he once said something to the effect of, “Small positive change is better than no change at all.” I don’t think he or I realised at the time how much that would resonate with me. That philosophy has been my guiding light for a long time…he was just the first one to put it into words.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where all I want to do is curl up under a blanket and never come out.