There isn’t much we don’t have access to–We, as in, millennials, or anyone equipped with the skills to use a computer and the internet. If I want to donate to a village in Tanzania, I can type it into my search engine and send my usual 10$ contribution across the world, the barriers of time and space suddenly eradicated by a few mega pixels.
So why is it that most of the people I know, all around 18-24, fail to do just that? ANYTHING. (Myself, sometimes included). We are a generation of infinite admission; We can enter into the worlds of any issue we see fit, local or global, yet, we remain paralyzed to the problems that will affect our future selves the most. Why? We don’t know which button to push first.
I live in New York City, arguably the easiest place to get around given its grid-like architecture and the millions of people available to ask where the fuck I am. Walk down and up enough avenues and streets, and eventually you’ll get where you need to be. But what has habitually become the first thing I do when I step out into the over-simplified streets? Whip out my phone and enter an all too known sequence-UNLOCK->MAPS->ADDRESS->SEARCH.
I also have access to the internet, via the Safari app on my iPhone, 24-7. But what do I do when I forget the details about an upcoming event, dinner, homework assignment? Whip out my phone and text the first person I can think of and ask “What time is …..?” or “What was the assignment for…?” I literally could have found the answer for myself if I just looked up the concert, went back and checked the agenda, or scrolled up through my messages.
We have a need for expediency, and the satisfaction of one-push resolutions has come to define us. To create change, to really get a meaningful project off its feet, you can’t just ask Siri where to begin. You need to research, outline, draft, rewrite, share, travel, ask, along with several other abc verbs. You need to take action and that is something some of us have never been taught to do.
I was a prisoner of a low-action high reward lifestyle for 18 years–always yearning to fix big things without ever knowing how to within the comfort of my room. The truth is, you CAN’T change worldly conditions if you’re not out in the world trying to. Sure we can apply for colleges that determine the rest of our lives on a singular simple online platform, or order all our groceries and books and clothes from Amazon within 20 minutes, or book a trip to Bali in the next 5 minutes through one website, but we can’t change the world with the push of a button.
I’m still trying to accept this notion, and haven’t quite figured out what my big first hurdle will be. I do know, however, that there are certain smaller steps you can take to lead you there:
1. Start a blog…Spread awareness about what you are passionate about! Find others who have similar interests and meet up IN PERSON to discuss and collaborate on ideas. Maybe you’ll end up starting a kickstarter, a small charity, and eventually, an huge NGO. It doesn’t have to be a blog, but keep your circles informed about what you’re doing, what you want to do, and what you need to learn to get there!
2. Reach out to people who are more powerful than you…Write to congressmen/women, city council leaders, mayors, professors, parents, CEOS!!! They have information about things that matter. They know other important people and eventually you will be in contact with someone who can do something big.
3. Research…No, not by typing in “how to stop homelessness in New York City,” but by going out and conducting your own fieldwork. Ask a few homeless people what they feel is the biggest problem surrounding the streets of the city, and record your notes! Go to a local shelter and observe the kinds of people that come by. Go to the library (whaaaaaaat!?).
4. Take the first step…I wanted to learn more about how comedy and satire could help make public discourse on various hot topics more digestible so I’m starting an improv group at my school. Who knows if this will be helpful or just fun, but it is something. Like I said, you literally have the entire world at your fingertips, and as I’m typing this I have never felt so much power in each and every letter I press. Take a risk, start a club, join a local volunteer group, attend a free panel, start a Facebook group, screen weekly documentaries about issues you want to fix.
Find unconventional ways to connect your interests with your passions, and watch the rippling domino effect of social change come to life.
it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
– Drew Dellinger
[will continue to update…]