Everything is problematic: What now?

I know that my column can get pretty bleak sometimes. I tend to write about subjects that are near and dear to my heart, and so many of those subjects are upsetting. There are ways in which I think the world, or at least portions of it, absolutely have to change.

They are problematic issues, and there are so many of them.

So, if everything is problematic, which often seems way too true, then how do we even deal with this?

Personally, I write slightly aggressive articles in a school newspaper, and I verbally attack the occasional Republican on the Internet.  These are very small things.

Sometimes, though, all we can do is small things. We’re college students, after all, and we’re students at Maryville College, who often ask questions like: “What do you mean thesis and comps?”

I mean, who has the time to fight against social injustices when you barely have time to keep up with the news?

That’s why, when faced with these issues in our day to day lives, we have to do the little things to feel like we’re doing anything at all. When you hear or see something problematic, don’t be afraid to point it out, whether it’s coming from a professor or a staff member or a student.

At MC, we pride ourselves on being an accepting, safe community, even if that isn’t always true, and people have to be held accountable if they’re impeding on the safety of our environment.

Speak up if you can. Find other options if you can’t: tell a friend, email someone in administration, do whatever you can manage.

It’s not just about being aware of other people, though. Be aware of yourself. What impact are your actions having on others? Are you making someone else feel uncomfortable or unsafe?

Most people come from a place of privilege in at least some aspect of their life, and that means it’s highly likely that you’re going to mess up somehow. It happens to everyone.

What you can do is try to not be part of the problem: listen when people tell you that you’re hurting them. Figure out how to identify that behavior in the future. Work as hard as you can to alter that behavior.

It’s definitely a concentrated effort, but it’s ultimately worth it, and it’s the first step towards creating a community where everyone has the means to be comfortable both with themselves and with the people around them.

This should be our goal as a school, and it’s one we’ve been working towards with diversity training (if you haven’t gone through an NCBI session, fix that) and other programs that allow us to openly speak about subjects that are hard, controversial and, yeah, problematic.

I’d like to leave you with one final word of advice before we leave this semester, though, and I hope you’ll take it to heart, as well.

Every article I’ve written this year is about something that makes me genuinely angry. I’ll go ahead and admit that I probably get angry more often than a lot of people. It’s a huge part of my life, and, if left unchecked, it can get kind of out of control.

So, here’s my advice: keep it in check. When you find yourself reading the news online and quietly shaking or talking to the screen, it’s probably time to turn off your computer, go outside, and try to find the beauty in the world again.

Go catch a case of spring fever and spend a few hours smelling the roses. Get caught in a rainstorm with your friends. Lay in a field and use your liberal arts training to contemplate your life. Kiss someone pretty.

Everything might be problematic, but your life doesn’t have to be.

While you’re working on recognizing areas that you could become more educated on, for the good of the whole, make sure to take some time for yourself. The world will still be there, waiting to be changed, when you get back.

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