You wake up one morning with your hands folded behind your heavy head.
You stare blankly at the ceiling and then begin to plan your day.
You’re wrapped in the same comforter, sporting the same tattered t-shirt, and your knee, the left one, still nags you until about noon.
At first, this day feels like any other.
But there’s a difference.
The change is subtle at first, faint at best.
But it’s there.
You know it.
It has to be.
You notice you feel lighter, freer, perhaps wiser.
For the first time in ages, maybe ever, a sense of clarity washes over you.
You suddenly understand your purpose — your role in the world.
You decide to no longer be misled by the barrage of Posts, Pins, and Tweets that say you can bend the world to your dreams, your timeline.
A year ago, even a week, hell, the night before this would have destroyed you.
Because as far back as you can remember you’ve listened to remixes of the same song.
You can be whatever you want.
You dream it, you be it.
YOU can change the world.
Before today, you thought making a “dent in the universe” meant launching a rocket, driving something red, living on a hill, wearing something Italian, announcing an IPO, being Liked, Retweeted, and Shared no matter the cost, however inconsequential.
But once more, you remind yourself this day is different.
It’s all nonsense, you think.
You start to question the unexamined rules you’ve followed in a lifelong daze.
Who got to decide these rules in the first place? you wonder.
Who gets to make me feel like some unperson for not carrying about the things I’ve been sold I should?
Now a tempest starts to brew within.
You’d never claim to understand the vast subtleties, nuances, and complexities of the human condition.
You know the possibilities for human potential and how to express it are nearly limitless.
You start to wonder why the square peg of your creative spirit has been forced into a round hole.
Then something happens.
This joy, this quiet rage, this freedom gives way to a revelation.
You CAN still change the world and it doesn’t have to be the one way you’ve been taught.
So, what can I do? You wonder.
You’re not sure exactly, but you know it must begin small.
Suddenly it hits you.
I can do little things, but really well.
I can eat better.
Stop boasting about how little sleep I get, or how hard I hustle.
I can illuminate my ignorance.
I can take things less personally.
I can get in nature more.
Look at screens less.
I can stop spending all my time in echo chambers.
I can stop complaining, especially about things I don’t plan to do anything about.
I can stop believing my success must come at the expense of someone else’s failure.
I can smile more, look down less.
I can walk more, drive less.
I can recycle.
I can stop thinking I am my ideas so I know there’s a difference between disagreeing with my point of view and attacking my character.
I can travel more, however near or far.
I can appreciate how two opposing ideas can be equally right.
I can stop following the herd.
I can think more critically about things.
I can learn from my mistakes rather than let them torment me.
I can stop comparing myself to people whose outlook, background, belief system, and goals are completely different from my own.
I can question, really question why I believe what I do.
I can ask myself if those beliefs are even my own.
I can stop thinking I’m better than everyone.
I can be liberated by my insignificance.
I can show up on time.
I can honor my commitments.
I can stop looking at my touchscreen at movies, dinner, when I’m driving, or talking with a real living breathing HUMAN.
I can embrace my frailties, flaws, and insecurities and do the same for others.
I can protect a healthy sense of skepticism about everything. (including posts like these)
I can vaccinate myself against cynicism, bitterness, and toxic people.
I can remind myself that just because something offends me doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
I can call more, text less.
I can visit my parents more.
I can remember my way isn’t the only way.
I can double-down on the facts, especially when emotions cloud my judgement.
I can let others love who they want.
I can try, however tempting, to not piece together an entire narrative based on the shape of someone’s eyes, colour of their skin, political party, or what God, if any, they worship.
I can recognize the world does in fact have problems, big ones, but not be deluded into thinking it’s going to hell.
I can stop waiting for permission to live my life.
I can watch less news.
I can stop talking during movie trailers.
I can remind myself that seeking help is a sign of strength not weakness.
I can stop worrying about what I can’t influence.
I can remind myself to always confront the truth, however uncomfortable — especially when it’s uncomfortable.
I can renounce falsehoods.
I can stop deluding myself.
I can save more, spend less.
I can be kind to people — ALL people.
Basically, I can just try to be better.
That’s it, you think. Then I’ll have done my part.
If I just do that, others will follow.
This is how you change the world.
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practicing art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realized that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less traveled but a journey that I look forward to every day.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.
Image courtesy of Puwadon Sang-ngern.