You (readers) are funny. I checked my blog stats and even though I haven’t really been updating, I still have quite a few visitors. I couldn’t figure out why. I proceeded to look at what search terms people were using to stumble upon my little piece of the interwebs. The winners are: “Lizard Poop” and “Danielle Fishel hot”
How embarrassing. Were people interested in my writing? No. Were people interested in what I meant by “change the world”? No. Were people interested in new ideas? No. Were they at least interested in The Peace Corps? No. The people want to see hot pictures of Topanga and gross pictures of Lizard Feces. Ridiculous.
I have lived in a developing nation for over a year now. Foreign development work is hard. There are cultural differences, difficulty motivating people, burnout, political obstacles, money issues, etc. However, these are not the highest hurdles a development worker must learn to jump.
One of the most difficult aspects of “the hardest job you’ll ever love”, is the crippling loneliness.
I don’t necessarily mean relational loneliness (not having family around and what not), though there is that as well. I mean, feeling isolated. You would think that being different wouldn’t be so hard for me. I mean, I grew up often being “The Black Guy” in the group. I’ve been into things that isolate me. I like obscure music and movies. I was one of the gifted students when I was younger. All of my relationships have been interracial. I could go on and on. The point is, standing out isn’t something new to me.
But, apparently it is.
Don’t get me wrong. Almost everyone I interact with makes me feel welcomed. I have plenty of friends. It is a cliché, but yes, most everytime I’ve entered the house of a Filipino, they have been very hospitable. That’s not really the issue. The problem is in my mind.
Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. I hear other volunteers and foreigners complain about asinine issues. I often find that the biggest complaints about The Phillies are no different than complaints about any country.
Case in point – I was lying in my bed trying to take a nap one quiet Saturday afternoon, and suddenly I was audibly assaulted by the squeals and giggles of several teenaged girls. They think I don’t understand them. They were comparing my attractiveness to celebrities’ attractiveness. I am apparently just as attractive as someone from High School Musical, but Justin Bieber is cuter than I am. I was getting annoyed and I could have easily thought, “Teenaged Filipinas are boy crazy!” However, that’s not the case. I am equally annoyed by boy crazy teenaged American girls.
It is my belief that most of the time our complaints about others are the same things we don’t like about ourselves. For instance, I often become annoyed at people who argue semantics, but I find myself doing that all of the time (Me: “Technically a killer whale is a dolphin” Friend: “But dolphins are whales” Me: “Yes, but this whale is in the family of dolphins” Friend: “But it’s still a-” Me: “Shut up!”). I often become annoyed at people who think their taste in music/movies/etc. is the end all. Yet, I find myself slightly elevated when someone finds a work of literature boring, when I found it stimulating.* I often become exasperated when people act overly demure. Yet, just compliment my blog and watch me become quite hypocritical. (Friend: “That was a nice blog post” Me: “Oh? You think I’m a decent writer? Me? Oh, maybe you’re reading someone else’s blog. Mine is drivel.”)**
In any case, even though life can be tough over here. I must reiterate, I have nothing to complain about. I suppose I always feel the most alone during “holidays”, you see, my birthday is this Sunday. I will turn 24 years old. I don’t attach anything to the number. I don’t feel old. Not even older. Yet, the passage of another year of my life always holds with it some form of fabricated significance.
I begin to ask myself questions. Am I the person I thought I would be? Is my life headed in the direction I want it to go? Do those questions even hold any weight?
I have been listening to an undergrad lecture series on iTunes U*** about literary theory by professor Paul H. Fry from Yale. He touches on New Criticism in his introduction. New Criticism finds the author’s opinions, goals, and motivations concerning his/her text to be no different than anyone else’s. New Criticism focuses on the text itself. Author intention is not to be worried about. I wonder how that applies to life.
If I am indeed the author of my own life as Natasha Bedingfield seems to believe “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten” she sings, then what does that mean? Is my life’s worth judged by the intentions behind my actions, or the actions themselves? Would Wimsatt and Beardsley scoff at my feeble attempts to justify my mistakes? Would they tell me to hush when I told them that; even though, I know my service isn’t always the most influential, there is a lot of heart behind it? When I look at my life and cry, “But at least I tried hard!” Will others see that statement as impertinent?
It’s ok. I know I’ll be surrounded by plenty of pre-20th century critics telling me that I did fine. Ha.
Another year went by, Brandon. Did you change the world yet?
What does that even mean? Change can be anything. Hitler changed the world. 9/11 changed the world. Slavery changed the world. Then again, America’s entry into WWII changed the world also. Then again, American cooperation in times of hardship changed the world. Then again, the abolishment of slavery changed the world. (This was very America-centric, wasn’t it?)
So, what does change mean for you, Brandon? Do you merely want to be influential? If that’s the case, then job done. Not because of anything you’ve specifically or personally done, but because everyone is influential in one way or another.
When I titled my blog, I wanted it to sound terribly idealistic. I wanted people to roll their eyes at me. I knew they would. However, that’s exactly what I expected. I am an idealist. And I believe real POSITIVE change is possible.
I suppose you could call me a modern day Kant. The change I want to see is Perpetual Peace. A type of peace in which everyone is autonomous and content in their autonomy. I haven’t read all of the literature Kant has written on the subject, but I do know that this is what I would like to see happen. I could care less if it happens through all nations becoming republics or through all nations becoming anarchies.****
Besides, I don’t only mean political peace. I mean personal, spiritual, communal peace. Maybe I’ll write another blog post on that.
When I say I want to “change the world” I don’t really mean something as lofty and abstract as that. I just mean, that I have a lot of dreams. I mean, that I am an idealist. I mean, that people are able to grow. I mean, that we can turn our backs on our backwards systems and our self-mutilation.
Well, when this Sunday rolls around, I will change from 23 to 24. Does it really mean anything? I don’t know, I DO know that I can no longer sing the words of Gangster’s Paradise honestly anymore.
“I’m 23 now, but will I live to see 24?”
I think I can survive 6 more days.
– Brandon Holly –
*Because, you see, this means I am more intelligent than them.
**While inside I’m more like, “Oh yeah! Uh huh! I’m the best writer alive!”
***If you aren’t doing this, you are missing out.
****Though, I have a lot of reservations when it comes to the idea of Anarchy.