The morning following Election Day, one of my professors urged my class to understand the importance of education and how it will play a vital role in challenging the poisonous ideologies at play in America. I took this advice and I raised him: I would devote myself to every detail of my coursework so that I would be my most educated, socially aware, and politically active self. I became engrossed in my studies and engaged constantly with critical theory texts covering every system of oppression from race relations to gender power dynamics to healthcare crises to toxic sexual scripts between peers and more.
But I became intensely and emotionally connected to this information. I woke up each day overwhelmed by the work to be done. I tried to fight the good fight by not allowing myself to escape the issues around me and I did not dare allow myself the luxury of mental reprieve. I still do not consider reprieve as something to be taken lightly or often; however, I have realized that there is a point when we must take care of ourselves in order to take care of the world.
The world is changing. It is apparent that there are still vehement disagreements over universally important issues such as immigration policies, healthcare accessibility, free exchange of culture, freedom of speech, and the “proper” way to express patriotism, as well as many other issues. This current political climate feels tense and ominous and terrifying to many individuals across the world, and the United States is taking center-stage for social and political tension.
But generally speaking, we have never experienced a time that has not been marked by some amount of dramatic international upheaval and we have certainly not experienced a United States that is not marred by tension and revolution. The world is, in fact, changing, but it is not transitioning from a perfect state into a state of ruin; it is transitioning from one state of confusion and terror and political instability to the next. Considering even the last century, the world has lived through the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, the creation and destruction of the Berlin Wall, both World Wars, and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, among innumerable other global issues.
This perpetuation of distress does not invalidate the necessity to resist when necessary; on the contrary, we find ourselves needing to act in a climate of upheaval that is uniquely our own. We have the ability to use this period of discomfort to either generate change on a massive scale or to submit to the distress and backtrack on progress.
Right now, for some students, university studies seem to pale in importance compared to the systemic, dangerous, explicit problems of this world. But for others, academic studies are an avenue into understanding the dynamics of this world and they function as a way to find some solution to the many problems affecting us today. It is important that we reach a personal balance between self-care and education.
And the definition of education ranges, so it is important that we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and expose ourselves to different ideas. Education does not simply mean attending courses at higher level institutions, nor does it mean developing pre-existing raw talent; to educate oneself in the current global political climate means to be aware of how the world’s dynamics are affecting individuals and to learn to be critical thinkers about resolving these issues. Being present in education should not be overlooked, now more than ever.
Balance is delicate; focus is crucial. When we take on all of the struggles of the world we run the risk of losing track of our own lives. And our lives and our world necessitate us to look at problems with an open yet critical mind. Focusing on how we can achieve our goals today and prepare for the future—whether that is towards coursework, personal relationships, or individual health—is critical to our progress.
As students and young adults, we must realize that recognizing what work must be done to make the world a better place and thinking about the ways to feasibly achieve this is the most effective way to progress our world through this tumultuous time. We do not have to attempt to save the world immediately, but we must set our minds to the future and critically examine the ways to achieve progress. Our resilience against injustice will come from paying attention to exactly when, where, and how to dissent.
Jacqueline L. Kellogg ’19, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Mather House.