January 2, 2016

Chocolates, T.S Elliot and Noise

Sometimes I wonder if it's the author's writing or the way we read things that affect the way we view the work, but a protagonist named Jerry Renault changed my life. In eighth grade, our class was instructed to read Robert Cormier's "The Chocolate War": a piece that tackles the typical permutation of themes for a middle schooler: fear and individuality. To save you from spoilers (because I think you should read it), Jerry Renault's character is driven by T.S Elliot's words "Do I dare disturb the universe?". For a whole term, our class dissected that quote and carefully looked into its meaning. Do I dare defy? Do I dare make change? Do I have the courage to disturb my universe? And what was our universe? Who was our universe? How far would we be daring to go for it? For an optimistic thirteen year old at eighth grade, the words implied a challenge and that has never left me. I love the saying so much that I chose it as my classic graduating quote for our yearbook. Its rhetoric brevity creeps on my spine and tests my backbone and pushes me to think if I actually do choose to defy the conventions, if I actually do choose to defy the norm and it pushes me to think about the extent to which I do. 

In all honesty, for the longest time I've been trying to be this advocate of "disturbing my universe", of making change and of making noise so that people turn their heads and lend their ears and pay attention to what I have to say. After all, Individuality is a very exciting thing for a kid to recognise. But over the years, I've learned that not everyone is always willing to do so. I've accepted that not everyone is looking for all that kind of clamour. Maybe T.S Elliot's simple six-word story isn't a glamorous neon-lighted billboard imploring people to gather some hubris and change something already. Maybe he means exactly the opposite.

Through the good and the bad, 2015 in its entirety made me think twice about the brave saying. It taught me something poignant about my ambition and advocacy. I got so lost in this need to prove to everyone that I had so much substance to offer to the table and I had all these ideas that were packed for a trip to greatness. I kept trying to disturb my universe. I was so obsessed by this idea of boldness, noise and reaction and I felt that everything I needed to do had to be aligned with doing something great. And when it didn't? Oh man. I felt as if I let the whole world down. 

I can't stop laughing now.
Dear me of 2015, you do not always have to disturb your universe. You have absolutely nothing to prove to anybody, so rid yourself of any hubris or of any subconscious aims to glorify yourself. It is OKAY if your essay is about a topic that's already been discussed before. It is OKAY if you fall short at giving someone the advice they need. It is OKAY if you cannot find the right words to explain how you feel. It is TOTALLY FINE if an idea you have is something that has already been thought of before. Nothing is new under the sun. Not everything that you do must explicitly spell out some grandeur or your passion or your individuality. Not every essay that you write or every entry that you post needs to have that fluid of gold that spells out how unexplainably distinct you are from your peers or your competitors or the world. Sometimes all you need to is to give all that you are asked for and to follow it all through with diligence.
Dear me of 2015, I hope you listen because I know how you feel. The noise can be so exciting and filling and it gives you purpose and fulfillment and satisfaction and thrill. I know you crave reaction, that you want the chemicals to explode with words and emotions pouring everywhere, where it's all stirring in people's minds. I know you want all the noise to somehow make a difference, but I hope that you realize that you can find the same fervor, intrigue and contentment in its absence. 

Happy new year :)