It’s been almost 3 years since I moved to Sweden. Consequently, it’s been just over 3 years since I last wrote a blog post. 1141 days! I have written a post that will cover this, but it’s not quite ready yet. I hope to release it soon, though. In the meantime…
In such a connected, globalized world, we know faster and more effectively than ever what’s going on around us. And not just around us…literally anywhere, at any time. We get international news telling us how bad everything is, everywhere, all. the. time. It’s enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed, sad, distressed, unhappy, angry, confused, disoriented, upset, frustrated, disappointed, defeated, and a whole host of other negative emotions.
In case those emotions feel familiar, just know that you aren’t alone. I have felt all of those emotions in the last year. Some days I feel every single one. And I want to make it clear –
It is okay to not be okay
Remember that as I touch on something sensitive – the world is in a difficult spot right now. I’ve become acutely aware of just how powerless it feels for any one of us to effect positive change. I see an issue happening halfway across the world and I feel “how am I supposed to help fix that?” Tweet an article maybe 10 people will read? Share on Facebook? Upvote something on Reddit? It all feels so…empty.
When I think about how I would expect positive change to come about, it doesn’t match up at all with what I see in reality. Democracy, a system built on the principles of giving every person a say in creating the best society for everyone, has been abused and co-opted for the benefit of a few, at the detriment of many. Greed and fear have given way to a rise in xenophobic efforts that seek to divide instead of unite. In place of swift, decisive action on climate change, we still see empty, too-little-too-late goals of “Carbon Neutral by 2050” or even worse, new coal power plants opening up despite the innovations that have been made in renewable energy in recent years.
I’ll keep going. Wars are being fought over issues that were created before any of us were born. Millions are being killed or held in concentration camps simply because of their religion. Families are being torn apart due to a rise in extremism all over the world, half of the world’s coral reefs are dead or dying, ocean levels are rising, COVID-19 has killed almost 2.5 million people….
Well, you get it. There is a lot of bad stuff happening. Like, a LOT of bad stuff. So why is the title of this post ‘Optimism’ if there is so much bad stuff going on? Why is it that I actually feel really good about our future as a species and the future of the planet?
Because there is so much more good stuff going on than bad.
You just don’t hear about it as much. Or you simply don’t realize it’s happening right in front of you.
Remember 10 years ago, when everyone was talking about climate change on the news? Me neither, because they weren’t. Nowadays, the climate crisis is part of normal, everyday dialogue, and while that might seem depressing, it’s actually quite encouraging. The first step to getting people to address a problem is getting them to acknowledge it exists. We’re finally at the point where most people are accepting the reality of the situation, and every day more and more people, governments, and organizations are taking action.
While I know it is not the case everywhere in the world, acceptance for LGBTQIA+ individuals is through the roof. Even 10 years ago, when I was still in school, it was commonplace to be mocked or bullied for being gay, and being trans was simply unheard of. The widespread movement for inclusivity has been inspiring to see.
Diversity and representation are on the rise, accessibility efforts are finally at the forefront of many companies’ operations, and from my own personal experience, it really seems like empty efforts to create an illusion of doing good are being replaced with doing actual good.
And while I recognize that none of these victories I’ve listed are present everywhere in the world, it is worth noting, and celebrating, that they are present somewhere in the world.
The Fridays for Future movement shows that the next generation to reach adulthood not only sees the many issues we as a civilization are facing, but are ready to face them all head on. They are deeply upset. They feel let down by their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. And they are ready to take on every single one of the challenges ahead of them. Power is shifting in the world. Kids that were raised in the era of climate change awareness are becoming CEOs, governors, presidents. Change is not just coming – it is already here.
The Love Tropics events I help organize have grown steadily over the past four years. What started as a small passion project with a group of friends has grown into a community-led event that is organized by people all around the world, features creators from all walks of life, and has raised over $155,000 for various important issues facing the tropics and the people that live there. The success we have seen isn’t because of a successful advertising campaign – it’s because more and more people care, and they want to help make the world a better place. Events like Love Tropics are becoming more commonplace, and give more people the ability to create positive change in the world, even when they cannot afford to donate money or are unable to volunteer themselves.
I feel optimistic because for the first time in my life, it feels like there are actual, feasible, solutions being proposed to the many significant issues we’re facing. I feel optimistic because while things are horrible with COVID-19 right now, I have already seen an enormous shift in attitude in how we define work-life balance. And, by the way, an innovative new vaccine was developed in less than a year. Just 100 years ago we were barely getting a handle on antibiotics. Can you imagine what we’ll be able to do in the next 100 years?
NASA landed a rover on the surface of Mars. Solar energy is now the cheapest source of energy in history. Non-profits are popping up every day that aim to tackle some of the world’s most difficult problems. Even though I am unable to fly home to see my family in person, I can video call them whenever I want for free. Heck, somehow TikTok was used to create a mass political movement in less than a day. I could write an entire series of posts about good things that are happening, and maybe some day soon I will. (If you want that – let me know!)
There are still a lot of things that suck right now, of course. And I won’t tell you that you should feel good all the time even when things suck. Like I said earlier, it’s okay to not be okay. You know yourself best. If you need to be sad, be sad. If you need to be grumpy (I need this several times a week) then be grumpy! Find what feels good.
Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Lean on those around you to support you when you need it, and offer the same back when you’re able. Don’t sacrifice your wellbeing for the sake of another’s.
Instead of seeking out news on how bad things are, try seeking out news about the positive change that’s being made every day. You might be surprised what you find.
And finally, be the change you wish to see in the world, even if it’s as simple as being kinder to yourself. Once you can imagine the world you wish to live in, you can be a part of making it happen!