21 December 2008

a letter to a humanitarian

dear humanitarian friend -

in our last conversation and in your blog, you have expressed grave disillusionment in the way some of the rest of us view your work. you don't want to be viewed as someone who is saving the world. i try, but i'm not sure i understand why. is it because you really don't feel that the work you're doing is saving the world or is it that you're not sure you deserve such a label because you chose your path and find love and excitement in your work?

the thing is, you make sacrifices most wouldn't make. you spend weeks living out of a suitcase in dangerous and remote places in africa and the middle east, trying to make inroads with and for people who move as slowly as molasses. you do it because you are trying to do what you can to make those places better for the people inauspiciously resident. you write op-ed pieces and a blog of your own on the atrocities and challenges within the aforementioned parts of the world. you keep your own emotions and even personal reward in check because you have chosen the life of a wandering pauper over that of the wall street lawyer you were educated to become and offered.

look, i understand that martyrdom is not what you seek. i get that maybe it's not fair that you mostly enjoy your work. but really, is it all that great? i mean, sure, there are moments you love what you do, see the results of your labors, look into the eyes of the people you are trying to help, but you suffer. you live a lonely existence for weeks on end. you are exhausted when on the go. you find occasional moments of serenity now that you've found a place you can call home, but don't have the time and energy to forge new friendships, build a relationship, and revel in all of the other elements of a rooted life.

people like us sacrifice a lot to make the world a better place. it's where we find the greatest sense of personal achievement, but the costs to our personal lives are untold. i have no regrets for leaving my life behind to do everything in my power to change the course of my beloved but drowning america (and darlin', my work is far from finished), but i lost as big as i won.

i lost friendships i'll never recover. i lost the freedom to live a carefree life. i will never again look at the woes of the world and not feel responsible to work to correct them. i will never stop working to be the best and most charitable me i can be, and i will never reach my own ideal because i am too mired in the rat race. my relationships suffer terminally because i carry the weight of the world atop my shoulders. someone recently told me i'll never actually have the life i want because i'm too accomplished, too driven, too successful, that i will never find the requisite strength and confidence within the fragile ego of the truly fairer sex to build a successful relationship (the lonely christmas i bring about is set to be like all the others before it, a pity party of epic proportion).

it makes me angry that my talents can mobilize people. it makes me angry as hell that what i do best pays nothing, keeps me up at night, and is pushing me into the pernicious world of american politics. it makes me angry that people now have expectations of me, hopes for me, and are making demands of my time, energy, and passion they don't even realize they want and need. and it thrills me so much that i can't help but throw myself into the thick of it. i am energized by it, i feel accomplished, i feel like i'm contributing, that i'm making the world a little bit better, and i need that. i need it to feel personally, professionally, and intellectually satisfied. and i hate it just as fervidly.

a crossroads lies in my path. in one direction, i see and fear a life of lonely political success. in the other lies personal reward that will dim the fire in my soul. i am being pushed and pulled toward the former, while wanting the latter. i just don't know if i can live with a dim fire in my soul, but i sure as shit don't want to be a fucking martyr either. i really don't.

so, i guess what i'm trying to say is that as much as i try to understand what you're saying, i'm not sure i do. and as much as i love you and want to respect you, i still can't help but see someone changing the world when you stand before me.


No comments:

Post a Comment