When you’re young and you’re fiery and you have tanks full of excess energy, you can’t help but be idealistic. Especially if you come from a prestigious university, you are automatically led to think that you have a great background and you have a great mission before you. Everything you see is great and therefore everything you do is perceived by your eyes as having tremendous effects in the society you live in (if you’re philosophical, even the universe). You’re big. You think gargantuan ideas. You live mammoth dreams.
But time has taught me the importance of seeing the value in the tiny, everyday stuff that occur to us.
Everyday stuff are simple, point-blank realities that don’t need long and unfamiliar words for explaining. Examples of it are endless: the morning I woke up with my drool on somebody else’s shoulder, the inconvenience of having to walk along roads under construction, annoyance with the honking of buses, amusement with a stranger, work complaints, fights with the girlfriend. These are the everyday stuff that make up the detailed novels of our lives.
The everyday stuff is different from the big, intellectual stuff many of us try to tackle each day. While they are not completely unrelated to each other, dealing with the everyday stuff definitely takes different strategies as compared to dealing with the big, intellectual stuff.
When I was in UP, I used to dream of being a teacher, a really famous one. I want to teach my students sociology, philosophy but particularly the value of applying social theories to their lives. I know a professor who spectacularly excels in that and I used to want to emulate him. I dreamed of inspiring people to think deeply and move decisively. I wanted to have an army of intellectuals before me who will think big for the big problems we face.
Wanting to be a teacher was definitely the solution I came up with for the huge issues that bugged me. It was easy. You just have to read a pile of books, tell your students what you got from them, and leave the classroom feeling good that you probably injured the monster of a problem that sleeps under your bed.
Even when I graduated from the university, I despised little, average talk from ordinary people. Salary complaints? Bullsh*t! Don’t these people realize that the real problem lies in the fact they agree to this system of exchange in the first place? Millions of people don’t have a single grain of rice on their tables and these mall addicts whine about their insufficient salaries? How shallow and unenlightened these people are! Some of them even explicitly say that they don’t care about the street rallies, they just want to go to work. And then there are those who are vocal about their support for the current regime which is definitely the congregation of all the evil in the universe! Uninformed, cold, heartless slaves!
But I saw people lose their jobs, I saw officemates with helpless, hopeless smiles on their faces as their last days drew near. I saw myself grinning when my supervisors took my first job away from me. I saw the desperation on everyone’s face, in the office and at home.
And with every relatively “tiny” misfortune that nicked me, my defenses were gradually eroded. I attributed the change in me to age, to my position as an employee, to the lack of a library to read in and a classroom to shine in. I attributed it to every little thing I could and couldn’t see. Then I realized the giant monster that I faced was not named “capitalism” or “inequality” or “government.” The monster, in fact, is my ego.
It became clear to me that before you can move to bigger problems, you have to meet the challenge of the tiny problems first. You cannot aim to demolish capitalists if you’re sucking at their tits, milking them every way possible. You cannot destroy inequality when you yourself is vocal about your prejudices. As long as you have dirty secrets, you can bet that all the people around you will have dirty secrets. The problem that we face is definitely gigantic but it is made of minute parts that can only be tackled if we only become humble.
So I worried about my salary. I worried about my job. I learned to sympathize with call center agents. I faced the fact that what I lacked was proper employment and a proper love life. Instead of dreaming to become a teacher in UP, I just dreamed of surviving the next day. Instead of fighting the government, I admitted to myself that the biggest enemy in front of me was my self-image.
Eventually, the fire slowly turned to soft embers. The cold spread. Curiously, the colder I got, the more I felt that I was closer to the truth. These little everyday stuff were my real problems, and they hurt like hell.
I can’t say that I am a much better person now than I was before. However, I know for sure that I am more truthful now than ever. I don’t hide behind the big, intellectual stuff to hide the small employee that I am. I don’t talk about the big stuff to cover up the hideous critters in my character. The everyday stuff is what really matters to me now. I know that if someday I succeed and deliver something great, it would be because I learned to focus on what really matters to myself.
The everyday stuff is what’s beautiful to hear for me now. I want to talk about how to tie my shoelaces properly, how come I can’t get rid of my dandruff, and how come you’ve never made your girlfriend feel satisfied given how big you are.