...is to become a better person every day.
As Notre Dame students started to feel the heat of final exams approaching, the number of Facebook updates appearing on my FB feed begins to dwindle. What left are photos of thanksgiving dinner and the first snowfall of the year, which are still receiving comments from relatives who are lucky enough to not have to face finals. I have to admit that I was elated to find the pictures on my FB feed - the feed finally feels readable again. The past months since the Paris attack left it flooded with too much negativity and strong emotion that I could not process, making it very unbearable, at least for me.
Yes, I am one of those FB users who you see rarely posts anything. Every now and then, however, you'll get a notification that she or he likes one of your very own post. Once in a blue moon, she or he would leave a fleeting comment on an old post. Well, this is true only if you're actually in their friends' list. Chances are, your friend request is still awaiting confirmation.
This is just one complex of mine that I could not explain. I suspect that this complex is also related to a few other things, like I can never tell whether someone's inviting me to his or her house merely out of politeness or because my presence would really be appreciated. And I had never managed to, for the life of me, keep in touch with my friends successfully. Thus, I always appear, mostly to strangers, as a private person who intends to keep everything professional. I seem to refuse to connect with people on a personal level. But for some reason, for some reason, everything started to change recently, and I can feel it working inside me. And by recently, I meant since the Paris and Beirut attacks.
I started feeling the change when I passed by a Russian/Ukranian event on campus a few weeks ago. The event's poster says, "Do you like free food?" which was attractive enough to any Notre Dame students. I initially hesitated to join and forced my friend to check it out first for the both of us. Two minutes later, my friend and I were chatting with the event organizers like good friends over a dish called the pierogi. While folding the dough stuffed with mashed potatoes and sauteed onions, we conversed about school, Russia and even criticized each other's cooking skills. And four pieces of hand-made pierogi later, I walked out of the event feeling so light on the inside - as light as the taste of the pierogi I just had.
It was not until later that evening that I realized how satisfying it feels to connect with people with such genuineness. This is especially felt in these trying times when everyone from the West and the East seems so anxious to be around each other. What made the realization felt more like a revelation was when I looked back and understood how easy it was to create that connection; All I have to do is be me, be the human being me with all my passions, the how ever much compassion I own in me, my sarcasm, and my bad sense of humor. Then, be ready to either receive nothing, everything, or anything in between from the person I interact with.
Here's the trick: in order to be able to carry your 'human being-ness' with confidence in any social situation, you have to admit that you are a working progress. Say you're struggling with a complex like mine, as long as you know you are working on it, I guarantee that you would not feel like you owe the world an explanation as to why you are who you are. And admitting that you are a working progress equals consciously deciding to become a better person every day.
At this point, you may think that this is just a very convoluted way of thinking about something simple. Well, it is. But it works for me and I am hoping it might work for you. I have had this mentality since the day I walked into the Russian/Ukranian event, and it has made my life so much more at peace.
Not only that, now I look at others and begin to see that they probably also realized that they are a working progress, and that puts them at peace too. It is as if every one of us is actually in our own peaceful bubble. And the way I see it, when one peaceful bubble interacts with another, they combine to become a bigger, more peaceful one. It is this image in my mind that convinces me that there is only one certain way to make the world better: create one humongous bubble that could accommodate as many of us as possible.
In order to do this, however, every one of us needs to agree to attend to our own peaceful bubble; We need to practice turning into ourselves and making peace with our own flaws and shortcomings - constantly reminding ourselves that we are a work in progress. Then top it off with expecting nothing from others. I guess this is what Rumi meant when he says, "Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."