By Sheilla Njoto
“Honey, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mum used to ask.
“I want to be a president, Mum.”
Of course, a couple of months after that, I decided that it would be more fun if I could become Anna Wintour’s successor instead. Do you remember when we used to dream to be a significant figure that could bring a change into the world?
Ah, those days—where do I even begin with childhood aspirations? We used to have so much passion about every single thing we did. We used to cringe when we heard about animal abuse. We used to get upset when we first found out which politicians were corrupt. We used to grieve for people who died in battles. We used to care.
But most of these days, I grieve more about how much I tend to say, “well, that’s how the world works; we can’t do anything.” Then, often with a straight face, as if my heart is senseless, I scroll down the news to see what happens next.
Who stole our idealism? Where did our principles go? What happened to them?
Being an idealist in the adult world is like being a know-it-all enemy to the society. Trying to defend what is right is considered as a bothersome replacement of authority. Our standards have suddenly become a mere naïveté. And all of the sudden, the world turns against us because we start questioning not only what people have been doing all this time, but also what we all have been doing.
Not too long after, our aspirations are seemingly locked down within pessimism and we started to settle with those that are only ‘enough’. Perhaps, we are just too comfortable with the way they are. Perhaps, it’s only ego. Perhaps, just like me, we realise that the world has been going on for millenniums without us and it’s been doing… enough. We decided to stop caring because people around us had—a long time ago. We decided to stop trying because we are used to being told that trying is useless—the world is controlled by evil authorities and imperfect systems. Then the question becomes—why were we educated with the ideals anyway?
Why were we taught about laws while at the end of all those years of our journey at school, we were revealed that “systems are flawed” or “authorities are a group of scums that steal our money”. When we have a set of idealistic notions in our head, people start commenting on how blind we are towards the reality. When we are eager to stand up, people start saying about how close-minded we are towards what is really happening. Thus, the assumption always lays on the premise that the more we experience reality, the more we lose our hope in our passion. Without us realising it, we’re adopting the idea they have adopted and we start wearing pessimism.
I know a number of people who were eager to become lawyers to bring justice—and came all the way to find themselves forget why there were there in the first place. I know many people who were determined to become politicians; at the end of the day, they found themselves settling with the so-called this-is-how-the-world-works.
So, again, why did we educate kids with the ideals in the first place?
It’s not the ideals that ruin what we think towards the reality. It never is. And it’s never even the other way around. They should be walking side by side. People want a change but they don’t want to change.
How do we demand a change and expect the world to keep serving us in our way? How do we feel comfortable blabbering some complaints about the reality while the only thing we do is just—well, looking?
Most of the greatest people I know are idealistic people—those who have an aspiration to defend what is right and to do their best they can do without fear of controversy.
Last year in my Art History class, I was first intrigued by Frida Kahlo—known as a very iconic woman in history, especially in the art world. Although she was diagnosed with polio since she was young, she never stopped pursuing her passion in politics and arts. In her teenage life, she had a bus accident that caused some damages in some parts of her body. Although, the world sees it as a tragedy, it never hindered her from producing impressive paintings or empowering women. She is now one of the best painters in the history and one of the most inspiring female leaders in the world.
It didn’t start nor end at Frida Kahlo. No one needs more explaining on Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and the list goes on.
Why do we wait for idealistic people to finally succeed to respect them? Why don’t we start with ourselves? What about idealistic people who cannot just sit there and bleed, seeing things in front of them going to a ruin? We need these people to motivate us. These people see things in a different way than what we have already seen.
In order to make a change, we first have to believe that there is a solution. In order to think of a change, we first have to see that there is a better way. Life is like a room with a hundred doors of opportunity. But to get in there, we first need to open them.
So when did we lose our aspiration? Our idealism? Why did we stop believing? So let’s constantly ask ourselves these questions:
“Where are we?”
“What have we been doing?”
“Am I on the right track?” If yes, good. If no, then what’s pulling you back?
It is underrated to say:
“But it’s just me. Who am I? What can I do?”
Needless to say again—those game-changers could have thought the same way and the history would have gone differently. Frida Kahlo wouldn’t have been Frida Kahlo if she wasn’t handicapped. After all, the question is not about when we stopped believing; it’s about how we believe again.
We come from different perspectives. We have different pairs of shoes.