Your Best Connection
Back in 9th grade English class, we all had to learn about the major themes in literature. One of the first topics most teachers start with is alienation. Maybe because modern American authors spend so much time on the subject, maybe because reconciling individuality with living as part of a human society truly is a universal theme, or maybe because our teachers wanted to torture us and make our adolescent struggles with identity even worse.
Whatever the reason, almost all of us have written at least one five paragraph essay on the subject – and we’re glad those days are over. The thing about alienation, though, is that it doesn’t go away after our teen years. Nor is it reserved for angst-ridden artists and philosophers.
When we become adults, alienation changes. It’s not quite as acute as it was when we were younger, but it’s still there. We live our lives. We work, we take care of our families, we pursue our passions. We interact with people every day. But still, many of us feel disconnected. We feel like we’re missing something, so to remedy the situation, we take action.
We commit our time and energy to a cause that’s bigger than ourselves, thinking that if we plug into the world community, we’ll feel less alone. We think that by connecting to a larger group of people, our lives will gain greater meaning. Then this connectedness and meaning should feed back to our sense of self, and we’ll feel complete.
That line of reasoning is backwards.
Start With You
If you feel disconnected from the world, my advice is to look inward rather than outward. This may seem counter-intuitive, but think about it this way: you have multiple identities at play in your life already. You have a career. You’re a parent. You’re a spouse, a child, a friend, and maybe a volunteer. You’re a cyclist, a tennis player, a home-brew guru, or a musician.
Some days you’re all those things before breakfast.
Look at all these facets of yourself as the planes of a diamond reflecting different wavelengths of the spectrum of visual light, creating a rich, robust rainbow of diversity. Cultivate each aspect of yourself. Feed them. Let them grow, flourish, and thrive.
Then you’ll feel expansive. You’ll feel fulfilled. Your openness will cause you to interface with more people, and those interactions won’t be based on external factors. They’ll be based on you. They’ll lead you back to a greater sense of self and solidify your identity.
You won’t need to seek out causes to make you feel more connected, because you’ll realize your life – and all the aspects of your character – are enriching enough already.