Originally published on the 26th of March 2016 here.
I’ve just realized something.
Ever since high school I’ve been unintentionally sliding away from reality and into the secret disco room next door where everything is tinted with a pink glow, I’m wearing amazing shoes and the food is healthy and delicious. In slightly different words, I’m surrounded only by people that I agree with, doing only things that I like. And, lately, I’ve started to wonder whether it’s wise to keep furthering myself away from the people and feelings that make me uncomfortable like I have been since day 1 of College.
College atmosphere was such a giant leap away from the place that I’d left — everyone was smart and believed the same things as me and was unveiling the magical truths of the world at the same time as me. It was pretty obvious that we were all so similarly minded because we were all in the same, really comfortable boat, studying in big, glass buildings and laying on rectangular lawns decorated by marble and crepe myrtles drinking green tea smoothies. Knowing that didn’t really matter to me, though, and I started feeling more and more attached to my new worldview and more dependent on being surrounded by other people who thought the same things as me.
Even though I was in college for most of the year, I still had to go home, where people’s opinions were very different and things could be much scarier and unfortunate. When I knew it was time to visit home, I would get anxious. I had begun to lose my ability to sit comfortably while people I didn’t agree with chattered away really loudly. I didn’t want to “face reality” — I would get angry if someone would try to talk to me about the world in a way that didn’t align with how I thought of it, and, unfortunately, it seemed like the more I latched onto my beautiful new ideas, the more people wanted to inundate me with negative bombs by telling me about how un-real my life was, and, therefore, how little my feelings about how the world worked mattered. Every time I’d hear something I didn’t like, I’d get annoyed and try to leave as quickly as possible and mutter to myself as I walked away about how horrible it was that these people were trying to bring me down with reality.
I was unaware that I would be even further propelled into a dreamlike utopia when decided to move to London. While the level of sappy intellectualism is less and there are way fewer people with annoyingly high vocabulary levels arguing about health care than, say, in college, living in London has made me so blissfully unaware of the reality and the opinions of other people that I am beginning to feel guilty for living in what is definitely not the real world. Not only are my friends and colleagues like-minded and have similar lives to my own, but I am also unavailable to go home nearly as often given the expense and energy and vacation days that international travel takes out of a person, so I don’t really see anything different from my own life very often, and when I do it’s such an event that it’s pure, unadulterated F-U-N.
And while this is amazing because it gives me hope and makes me naive and calm and optimistic and driven and makes me feel like I can do anything and that the world is beautiful and I am living in a dream that will never end(!!!), I am actually living in a dream world, and I don’t get the opportunity to assess the world from other perspectives anymore. I only have one. I don’t get to feel sad and feel my blood pump faster as I try to thank people for their time and run away when somebody at a party says something insanely un-PC. And this means that I don’t get to think about it. Why are they saying that stuff? How is it that people still feel this way? In my little world, there is no space for any X-ist or X-phobic feelings. But these feelings do exist, a lot, and especially where I’m from. Not hearing about them is closing out any potential to understand other people’s lives better and develop more empathy or help people understand things differently. It’s like I live in Tentacle Acres — I get to keep waking up and eating delicious food and taking nice strolls and tinkering away at the cart and checkout flow of a business card company’s website, hiding all the bad posts I read and only talking to my family and friends about fun things. Unfortunately, Tentacle Acres has restricted access to SpongeBob videos, so this one will have to do:
A very fine Dutch painter once wrote “we live in such a disturbed age that there can be no question of having opinions that are firm enough to judge things” — I’ve begun to realise lately that, besides the really obvious truths about the world, most opinions aren’t right or wrong — they’re just two sides of the same coin. Being in my utopia makes me feel really great, and maybe I should just embrace that and live my life surrounded by good vibes and good toast and pretty places. But all of a sudden I realize that it’s so easy when you’re in your fake world to forget that people who don’t agree with you are probably not insane. They aren’t my neighbors as far as I know and they don’t talk at the parties that I go to. And I think that this lack of contact with people that you don’t agree with is not at all unique to my life and that it’s really, really bad. No one is going to meet halfway with people they’ve never met and verified were sane, but more and more it seems that the people who disagree with one another live in completely polarized places where they’re amongst only people just like themselves. Everyone’s got their own little Tentacle Acres, without a pineapple in sight.