04 September 2007

While the world is changing us

Making plans to change the world
while the world is changing us

~Dave Matthews, Stay or Leave Some Devil Disc 2

It is that old nature/nurture argument; are we who we are because of genetics and our 'natural' state, or are we who we are due to our environment, our upbringing, those people who had influence on us as we grew into adulthood? Psychology researchers struggle to test this concept; there is no real way to know for sure.

Personally, I think it is a bit of both. I wouldn't be the person I am without the life experiences that I've had, even though some of who I am was decided by my genetics.

My sister was teasing me a bit this weekend about my plans to go back to school and do work for women's advocacy. She patted me on the arm and said, "Not that I don't think you're going to change the world, but sweetie, there's a lot of other things you could do."

Change the world. Say those worlds aloud; savor them. Think about what you would do if you could change just one thing about the whole world. Would you put an end to poverty? Would you cure AIDS? Cancer? Change the way we think and put an end to bigotry? What would your answer have been when you were 17? What is it now?

When I was working for the non-profit, part of my daily duties was to give tours of our facility and explain to community groups what we did there every day. At the end of the tour, I would spend about 15 minutes talking about how the charity got started, how it grew from an idea to a world-wide phenomenon, in the space of about 10 years. The story gave me the chills every time I told it. Three people, with an idea about a change that needed to be made. Average folks, who if you asked them, would tell you that they weren't anyone special. But yet they revolutionized the whole way that the industry we operated in did business, and when it spread beyond the borders of the United States, they did change the world.

The world and our daily life experiences change us, whether we realize it or not, every single day. I was talking this weekend with neighbors of my parents, a married couple who both went to Catholic school from birth through college. It goes nearly without saying that they're on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me, and yet I had to point out to them that their opinions were a lot less conservative than they claimed. They harassed me right back, noting that my stance on English as the official language of the United States is pretty darn conservative. That it is; over the years my point of view on that has shifted from not having an opinion at all to one where I cringe while agreeing with people who I think are on the 'wrong' side of the immigration battle.

That shift of opinion has come about due to life experiences; nurture. If I hadn't had a moment in a Target in Southwest Florida in 2006, I would probably still not care so much. The world changing me, if you will.

I'd still like to change the world. And I still think I can. Is that nature? I think I would have that desire regardless of my upbringing and life experience. So perhaps.

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