Not long before I left Seattle my ipod died. I was about to head to Hawaii for what I thought would be a short visit. I bought a new ipod, but since I thought I’d only be gone for a little while I didn’t bother putting much music on it. I put a few CD’s on it without really paying attention to what they were, just enough to keep me occupied for a little while. I figured I’d download the rest when I got back.
Of course I get to Hawaii and realize I’m staying. It may have been a poorly planned move, and it may have been a rash decision, but Hawaii is where I’ve always wanted to be anyway. Had I gone back to Seattle as planned, who knows when I’d be able to return again. But had I known I was going to move permanently I would have prepared a lot better, and I would have put a lot more music on my ipod.
I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world. For years now I’ve been working on ways I can do that. I always thought, “After I become successful, that’s when I can make an impact.”
A lot of people have dreams and aspirations, and a lot of people say they want to make a difference. But many people also say they can’t do it because they are lacking something. They seem to think, “When __ happens, that’s when I can make a difference.”
“- when I have more money”
“- when I finish school”
“- when I get a better job”
“- when I get married, or at least find someone”
“- when I figure out what I want”
For me it was, “After I become successful.”
There’s a song called “Dancing in the Dark,” by Bruce Springsteen. It happens to be one of the few songs on my ipod. It was one of those songs that I had never previously paid much attention to. Who cares about dancing in the dark anyway? What’s the point?
But when you have a limited amount of music on your ipod, you end up listening to the same songs over and over. The more I listened to it the more it grew on me. Songs have different meanings to different people, but I’ll tell you what it means to me.
Bruce Springsteen sings:
“I’m sick of sitting around here trying to write this book…”
Woah. That’s definitely something I can relate to. I’ve been working on my book for over two years now. Sometimes I haven’t felt compelled to work on it, and sometimes it just hasn’t been fun. There have been stretches of time when I’ve completely ignored it.
When I started working on it in 2009 I pretty much kept myself away from most other things, distancing myself even from family and friends, thinking that focusing on my book would expedite the writing process. I wanted to get it done right away so I could move on to the next step. I was thinking, “I’ll have it finished in a few months.” But a few months passed, and it still wasn’t done. I kept thinking, “A few more months, just a few more months. It won’t be much longer.”
I had a job at that time, or what you might call a “real” job, so my days went more or less like this: job – work out – writing – sleep – repeat. There were other things, of course, but, in a nutshell, that’s kind of how it was.
I didn’t ignore people completely. But I also wasn’t there for them when I probably should have been. I neglected certain people I wish I hadn’t. I let my own ambitions get in the way of people who are important to me.
“I need a little reaction,
Come on, give me just one look”
Humans are social by nature. Even introverts like and need social interaction when it’s comfortable for them. I think people need reaction, we need encouragement and reinforcement, we need solid family and friends to support us in the things we do. And by support, I don’t mean it because we are not strong on our own, but because we are stronger with the backing of others.
It’s okay to be introverted. But if you live a life like a Kermit… I mean… like a hermit, what good will you do? It might be a nice way of getting away from society, but ultimately you will achieve nothing. You won’t be contributing to the world around you in any way, though I suppose it’s better than contributing negatively. I think some people hide from society because of all the cruel things in the world. Then why not be the change you want to see? That’s the only way progress can be made. Yeah, people suck sometimes. Nobody said it was easy being green.
In my case, I wasn’t trying to get away from society, I was just looking for ways to be more productive. I thought that by focusing more on my task I could get more work done. I’ve never been a hermit by any means, but when you’re so involved in your own things that you miss out on the rest of the world, you might as well be.
“You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark”
To me, “starting a fire” is a metaphor for making an impact, being a good influence, making a change in the world. And you can’t do that without some kind of ignition. You have to start somewhere.
“This gun’s for hire”
You can hope someone comes and “hires” you, and you can hope opportunities show up at your door. But if you wait for things to come to you, you might end up waiting a while.
“Even if we’re just dancing in the dark”
Sometimes you may not know what to do. Sometimes you may feel like making a change, but you don’t know how to go about it. Or, if you’re like me, you might know what you want, but you think you have to achieve a certain status before you can do it.
I think of “dancing in the dark” as a metaphor, meaning we may not be doing much, we might not be able to do the things we want to, we might not know what else we can do, but if it’s all we have right now, we should do it. It’s better than doing nothing.
But perhaps it isn’t just a metaphor. You can take it literally if you want. Dancing in the dark may not be useful in any way. It doesn’t help anyone, so why do it? But if it gets you to stand up and maybe take the next step, I think it’s worth doing.
Some people say they just don’t know what they can do. I think doing something – anything – is better than nothing, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. It might not be the right thing for you. But it might lead you to the right opportunity, it might open your eyes to new possibilities.
“There’s something happening somewhere,
I just know that there is.”
There’s always something going on somewhere. Most people don’t like to feel left out. For a while I purposefully kept myself away from things so I could focus on being successful. But I think I missed out on some things that I wanted to be a part of.
“You can’t start a fire
Sitting around crying over a broken heart,”
Everyone is unhappy sometimes. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when things don’t work out the way you thought or hoped they would. But it’s also easy to forget a broken heart when your heart is set on somehow making a difference in the world. You can’t start a fire sitting around wallowing in self-pity. So if you put your attention on finding ways to help someone besides yourself, not only is it easier to forget the things that have been making you unhappy, but you might find a way to make a new start.
“You can’t start a fire
Worrying about your little world falling apart,”
Sometimes people get so consumed in their own lives that they forget about the rest of the world. Me included.
But what happens when your little world crumbles? Does anyone care? It doesn’t affect them in any way, so why should they? You can think it selfish of people not to care, or you can think it selfish of yourself for expecting people to care about your tiny world that involves no one but you. Even the people who genuinely care about you can only do so much to help. It isn’t your little world that matters, but the world that you bring to others.
When I started writing my book two years ago I wasn’t concerned with anything besides finishing it. Not only did I miss out on some things, but it made me kind of miserable, it just wasn’t fun, and it was counter productive. Sure, I got a lot of work done during that time. But it still isn’t finished. Could I have made significant progress on it while still being more involved in other things? Probably.
Yeah, I could have handled things differently. But I try not have any regrets. Things happened the way it happened for a good reason, whatever that reason may be. I may have missed out on some things during that time. But ultimately I think I was where I needed to be, at the time I needed to be, so I don’t think I missed anything I was supposed to be a part of, even if I’m not too happy about it. However, I’ve resolved not to put things off anymore, and to never ignore people, especially those who mean a lot to me.
You might not be consciously taking yourself away from things, but if you are putting off things that you want to do, things that you know are right, because of a lack of money, or time, or for other reasons, then maybe you should ask yourself if you are being too concerned with your own little world.
It’s great to have dreams and goals, and it’s great to be working towards them. But you can’t ignore the present. It’s not enough to think, “Someday. Someday I’ll be in position to make a difference.” The difference you can and should make is today. Right now. Whatever your situation may be.
“I’ll do those things after I finish school. Oh, but now I have a load of student loans to pay off, and I want to travel and have some fun before I really grow up so I better find a job to get some money. But now I’m starting a family, so I better find a decent house. I better start saving so my kids can go to college, no time to do anything else. Wow, now I’m old. Where did all that time go? Oh well, I’ll leave it to the next generation to make a difference.”
Excuses will always be readily at hand, so we shouldn’t let them get in the way. Obviously money is necessary for certain things. But if you keep thinking, “Someday I’ll have more money, that’s when I’ll start,” you might find that a lot of time has passed you by. If you’re reading this, you are wealthier than the vast majority of people in the world, so let money be no excuse.
I’m not saying you should deviate from your chosen path, and I’m not saying you should run yourself into debt. What I’m saying is the difference you want to make can start now. Doing so might actually help you get to where you want to be.
You might not have all the money you need to do certain things, but when there’s a will there’s a way. You’ll just have to be a little more creative in your endeavors. And anyway, sometimes the best things you can do require no money at all.
It’s great to be working towards big dreams, but there’s no reason why you can’t start making little dreams come true today. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, create opportunities. It may not feel right at first, but it might lead you to where you’re meant to be. Besides, sometimes the most important difference you can make is by doing little things for the people closest to you.
We are human. We are meant to achieve great things. Each and every one of us has the power to do so. But you can’t expect anything to be handed to you. You have to start somewhere, at some point. We should all be doing something. Even if we’re just dancing in the dark.
I’m Rob Kajiwara, and I’ve danced in the dark. Thanks for reading.