Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately. Where I live, what I eat everyday, the things I can afford, the things I worry about, my “problems”. I am acutely aware of my place in it, and even more so where others on this planet fall. Since I left the non-profit realm over two years ago, I have disconnected myself from the great issues of the world: poverty, hunger, illiteracy, violence, environmental degradation, injustice of any kind towards anyone, anywhere. I did this because I had to – I would never have been able to walk away and take care of my own basic needs if I allowed myself to focus on, empathize with and thus become activated by the injustices around me. I left the nonprofit sector because I wasn’t able to take care of myself financially. I was struggling to pay my car loan, my school loans, and most importantly help my family during the rough recession years. I made an active decision to leave my passions and build a career for myself that provided me with a different source of pride. One that allowed me to save for a home, to start a retirement fund, to be able to afford to travel again, and most importantly, to contribute to my family. And in order to be financially stable and independent and to focus on this one goal, I had no other choice but to compartmentalize the deep yearning in my soul to be living out my passions. I contributed financially to the institutions and causes I loved, and I told myself that that was good enough for a while. I buried my empathy and connection to those issues I am so passionate about somewhere deep, and after two years of choosing to not let the worlds problems affect me, I have awoken as if from a long hibernation, ready to tackle and devour those topics once again.
A few things have coincided to allow me to come to this vivid realization. I became a homeowner last year. I have a stable, well-paid career with a successful and creative corporation, conveniently located ten minutes from said new home. I am traveling again fervently; London, Brazil for the World Cup, Miami and Portugal trips are for the most part booked and anxiously awaited. My best friends, the family I chose for myself, my comfort zone are all within a five mile radius, a stones throw away any time I may need them. Life has become…comfortable, convenient, simple in fact. The first four of the five tiers of Maslow’s pyramid are satisfied deeply in my life: my physical well being, my sense of security and safety, feelings of love and belonging, and through my financial goals, a sense of pride, achievement and self-respect. Now my thoughts, my time and energy are free to wander to the last and final tier, the one that most humans on this planet will never be able to contemplate their whole lives due to the struggle and anxiety associated with the lack of any of the first four tiers: self-actualization.
The luxury, privilege and opportunities that have presented themselves in my short life thus far are astounding, and a direct result of the sacrifice and vision of the generations that have come before me. To leave everything and everyone behind to build a new life in a country where no one looks like you, speaks your language, or knows what daal chawal is must take such gumption and fearlessness. The sacrifices of my mother and father are what I stand so confidently upon now. I am profoundly aware of how fortunate I am, and thus humbled and grateful. Yet at the same time I think of those who don’t have what I have. Every night before falling asleep, I send love and peace to those waking up at that very moment on the other side of the world with so so much less. My heart empathizes with each of them and I long to do something to even the scale. I coax the Universe to allow those living in poverty and hunger and surviving in war-torn countries, just a few moments of happiness that day and to take away some of their suffering.
Not so long ago, my grandparents were those parents, and my mother and father were those kids and its something I can never forget. I feel the tides of change approaching…shifting and shaping my future by luring me to look back towards the things I once left behind.
I suppose it is all about achieving the balance between passion and pragmatism, not forsaking one for the other. Nice article.