Can We Actually Change the World?

   Can we actually change the world?

   I think so.

   I’m serious—I believe that every single person has to ability to affect change, and the more individuals who attempt it, the more compounded and wide spread the effects. However, I also know that it can be hard to find a way to even start. We might want to help, but then the world’s problems loom large—so overwhelming that we feel powerless and frozen. Where on earth does a person even start?

   I’ve read a lot books on writing over the past two years, and a common theme—or a common piece of advice given, is to write about what you know. I would take that advice a step further and tell you to write what you’re passionate about. We all have our things, the interests that light a fire in our belly and push us to pursue what we love. People’s range of interest can vary from gardening, to art, to space exploration, to math, to horses, to coding, to hospitality, to reading, to mechanics… You catch my drift, right? Well, the truth is, knowing what we care about most is often the best place to start on the journey of discovering how we might affect change. If we first focus on what we know—on what we are passionate about, it often leads us where we need to be.

   In my life, I first zeroed in on mental health because of how my son has and still suffers. It took years for me to realize the importance of mental health to cultural change, but I eventually made it my focus to try and raise money and awareness. I believe that a mental health renaissance and revolution will not only improve the lives of people who suffer with mental illnesses, but it will also improve the world as a whole. So, you’ll hear a lot about mental health from me, and in my shop I have a line of art dedicated to raising money toward it. Now, this doesn’t mean mental health is the only focus of my heart, I also have a transgender sibling who only just recently, after fifty years of staying silent, finally told her family (me included) who she really was. I’m super proud of her. And I’ve heard her talk about some of the struggles of facing the prejudice in our world today. Her story and plenty others led me toward fighting against social and racial injustice and I created a line of art to help come alongside two organizations who are currently on the ground working toward building a better, more diverse world culture. And then I also have an intense love of gardening and being outdoors, so my heart is very drawn to environmentalism. But, beyond being an avid recycler and trying to live more sustainably on a farm, I’ve yet to find my way in this area fully—I’m working on how I can do more for change here too. Above all, my faith, which is an integral part of who I am, calls me to love and so my passion in all of these areas is love; love for God, for my family, for others, and for the earth. Anyway—I tell you all this to demonstrate how your own life, interests, and passions can lead you to places where you can affect change.

   Now, please know that I celebrate the fact that your views, faith, or passions will be entirely different from mine. It would be sad if they were not, so many worthy causes would miss out otherwise. Perhaps you’re someone who believes that being politically active is the only way to change the world, or you’re someone whose heart leans toward education and the change it brings, or your heart is to simply feed the hungry, or your someone who steers toward animal rights and activism… Every cause is worthy, and the spectrum is broad, but that doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Do some soul searching, start small, find the things you know, the things where you are at in your own life right now, and then explore your passions around them. I promise, this kind of search will eventually lead to a place where you feel you can affect change. Then you focus on that one, two, or even three or more if you’re ambitious, and you go out and change the world.

P.S. Remember it’s a journey. I did not discover all the things that moved me overnight. Have grace with yourself, and take on only what you can handle. And then have grace for others as well, they might choose a different cause than you, let them, the world need them to.

Personal Grace

Do you ever think about grace? 

   Once upon a time, in my twenty-something days, I was the most graceless person on the face of the planet. No joke, you would not have liked me, at all! I was conceited, self-serving, and unkind. I had very little compassion for those around me, and I drove hard nails into the judgemental coffins I constructed. 

   It took years of health struggles, and a veritable volley—(Oooo, I like those two v-words together)—of real-life-kick-in-the-pants-problems, before I understood the true meaning of grace. It wasn’t until I’d walked in some hard shoes that I realized I had no right to judge. Most of us learn this life lesson first, and as a result, most of us get better about having grace for others. But what about having grace for ourselves too?

   Sometimes, I’m downright brutal; I berate myself for not getting all the things down, I’m by far my own worst critic, and I constantly focus on my mistakes. Sound familiar? 

   I think we treat ourselves poorly for a lot of reasons, but especially because we often believe its immodest to extend grace to ourselves—almost like we’re not being humble if we give ourselves some slack. Honestly though, self-abasement is abusive to the soul, and no matter how innately human, it draws us down a dark path. The truth is, we’re NOT perfect, the fact is, no one is. And the MOST graceless thing we can do to ourselves is to constantly focus on our shortcomings.

   For example: living with chronic illness is my reality. I can’t do ALL the things anymore, and in this, I need to have grace, either that or the frustration around my physical limitations will destroy me emotionally. I also need to have more grace for myself when I mess up. While I should definitely acknowledge my mistakes, I can’t let them define me… Mistakes can be used to help me grow, but afterwards, I need to move on.

   Personal grace will look different for each of us, but I honestly believe that if we don’t start extending more of it to ourselves, we’ll eventually have nothing left to give others. 

A Word of Encouragement About Reviews to New Authors

I wonder what the world would be like if everything we ever created was subject to reviews?

   Let’s imagine you spend three full months knitting a complex and detailed adult sweater, but, when it’s finished, you’re required to post that sweater online for reviews. Now, keeping in mind that most of the reviewers are not knitters themselves, what do you think the reviews will be like? My guess is that some people might feel your craftsmanship was exquisite even though they didn’t like the colour, others might love the colour but feel like the cable design was off, still others might love most of it but not like the texture.   

   This is the inevitable nature of reviews, isn’t it?

   People’s likes and dislikes are entirely subjective, and taste varies wildly from person to person…

   I just released my debut novel, The Maiden Ship on February 7, 2020 and this is my first real experience being open to public review as an author. It’s an interesting journey, and for the sake of bringing my point home, I want to share a few of the contrasts I’ve read in the reviews on my own book: one reviewer thought my main character’s pinnacle development moment came too abruptly while another thought he took forever to get there, another said my writing was not poetic enough while another called it too flowery, and while some loved that my novel maintained a male POV (point of view) throughout, some criticized this by saying that a girl (me) should not be writing in a male POV. Talk about variety, hey?!

   Quite honestly it’s impossible to be hurt by any of these, none of them are objective, they’re obviously based on personal bias and taste. I know all you veteran authors out there have this down pat already, but I just want to encourage the newbie authors out there, like me, not to take these reviews to heart.  That’s not to say constructive criticism from knowledgeable professionals should be ignored, not at all, but when it comes to the average online review, you need to take them all with a grain of salt. And NEVER, EVER let them discourage you, SIMPLY KEEP WRITING!

   P.S. I’ve also learned not to trust book reviews for my own reading choices. From now on, I plan to let a book speak for itself and I’ll no longer be turned off from reading something I’m interested in just because of a random two star review that was posted online—who’s to say that what didn’t suit that person won’t suit me? Of course if you still feel like you need reviews then let me suggest you seek out friends with similar tastes instead, that way you’ll be able to trust their recommendations whole heartedly. Happy reading!