Act Individually

Posted on March 2, 2008


I like the phrase “Think Globally, Act Locally.” I’d like to coin a new one: “Think Collectively, Act Individually.” I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve had a bit of guilt around my lifestyle lately. I’m fortunate enough to work from home, and thus have had a lot of time for personal development. Over the past two years, i did a year of therapy, finished grad school, and have been running and practicing yoga. It’s great to be able to workout everyday, to be selective about what I eat during the day, to be able to write when I want (which, turns out, is not that often). I’ve been really happy and motivated most of the time. But, like all good anxious ex-Christians, I feel guilty about enjoying my life this way.

In the past, I have taken on more noble endeavors. I have been an inner-city high school teacher. I have worked in inner-city school districts. These careers did not bring me joy or satisfaction. In fact, I spent most of the time feeling like I could never be successful or fulfill my potential or have an impact in these environments. There was just too much chaos and widespread systematic failure to make change. Yet, these choices felt more honorable, less selfish.

My current path, conversely, is deeply satisfying personally and professionally. While in other work environments I spent most of my time working on looking productive and together and organized, working for myself forces me to face my own shortcomings and be accountable to myself and my potential. I no longer spend most of my time comparing myself to colleagues, and instead have to focus on my own skills and progress. I also have a lot of freedom to do things I want with my time. And while this choice may not be an benevolent as other career choices I’ve made, I feel less discouraged, depressed, and hopeless than I have before.

I don’t think my current lifestyle is having a direct positive impact on society, but I also find that my outlook and perspective hasn’t much changed. I still deeply believe in access to education and equality. I am happy to be in a higher tax bracket and pay more for services to others. At the core, I believe in social responsibility and am happy to share any kind of wealth, monetary or otherwise, with others. I just don’t want to directly provide services any longer. And I’m starting to see that there are benefits to me developing personally.

I’m trying to be ok with working on myself for awhile. Maybe forever. So I’m going to act for myself to actualize my potential and achieve my goals, but always think of others and give what I can and make choices that have the least negative impact on the world. Right now, that seems like the most responsible thing to do.

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