Positive v. Negative – Designing My Personal Universe

Over the past week-plus, my life has been literally turned upside-down and shaken like a snow globe. Three days prior to the start of a new semester, I accepted a full-time position in the college’s Institutional Research department, which effectively removed all my classes from my control. I interviewed for the position on a Tuesday, and the next morning I accepted the position. After that, my status in the school’s system changed nearly instantly. Just a lesson in life for me, everything can change in the span of a single eye-blink – literally.

If only that could work with a lot of what is presented in the rest of the world. A single police shooting in a St. Louis suburb spawns several days of turmoil and anger, spurred on from the wraith of black v. white racism that has haunted the United States since the 1960s and 1970s. An uptick in the violent struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis, a fire that gets fanned every so often from what appears to be very small issues – at least for those of us outside of that conflict. Aggression by Russia against one of its neighbors, which includes land-grabs, inciting and arming “insurgents” and the seemingly accidental downing of a civilian jetliner. And none of this covers the parade of nightly shootings and assaults that festoon the daily morning news broadcasts. Nor does it include the constant barrage of anger, vitriol, accusations, and outright slander that is on display in local, county, state, and federal elections here in the United States.

It does not take a lot for folks to see all the negativity that permeates the world around them. I sincerely believe that a lot of what happens in the above noted scenarios comes from people feeling frustrated in their daily lives, and that negative feelings are so easily accessed. It does not take a lot for anyone to reach for feelings of anger, hatred, and resentment. It certainly does take a lot more energy and effort to move past those feelings and find more positive manners of reflection. After all, you have to push past the negative aspects, and attempt to see everything from another perspective.

“So, Mr. Smart Elf,” I hear you saying to me, “How do we get past the issues in Missouri, Israel and the Ukraine? How do you spin those in a positive light?”  My answer is simple – I have no idea. I do know how I can deal in the issues within my own life. I am no longer in a position of instruction with the college. But I know that in my new position, I can help the college grow, become stronger, and find new patterns of looking at the entire environment there. “How dare you compare your loss of a teaching job to things far more important to the world?” Yep, that’s the typical sentiment I hear – particularly from people who hold one or more of those issues as being “extremely important”. When I do not hold the same world view that someone else does, that’s the typical attack vector.

To be completely honest, I don’t hold my loss of a teaching position to be of greater importance. But it is an important focal point in my life. And one where I can affect a measure of immediate change. When I was in the Air Force, one of my shift supervisors once told me that it wasn’t the manner in which you fought that made a difference, it was knowing which fights you could make a difference in. The ones where you couldn’t make a difference, you observed and waited for the time when you could make a difference. In other words, I had to learn to pick the fights to fight. The same thing applies to issues around the world. I can get angry about certain issues, we’ll use the Ukraine issue as an example, but there’s nothing I can do to make any change there – short of quitting my job, selling my house, buying a ticket there, and volunteering to fight in the Ukrainian army. And even then, I am unsure that I would have any affect on the outcome one way or the other. I can (and do) write letters to my Congressional representatives, asking them to draft legislation to bring the United States firmly in on the side of the Ukrainians. And there’s still a measure of doubt as to how effective that may be. But I can make a difference in my place of employment, by becoming an excellent analyst. In a manner of speaking, its a way of analyzing the pattern and determining not only where my own thread is in all of that, but how much the pattern is dependent on that thread.

The other side of me has moved towards reading the news every couple of days – rather than nearly every hour as I had been doing. And choosing to fill my time with things that hold more meaning to me. Again, I am not trying to say that none of the events that I mentioned are important – just that none of them is going to fill every moment of my day with thoughts of what I can and cannot accomplish. Again, in a manner of speaking, I am choosing to design my own corner of the universe. And I am choosing to set aside the easier emotions of negativity to find a way to access a more positive manner of thinking. Perhaps others may consider me to be deluding myself with this approach – and I not only respect that, but can accept it as their chosen perspective. Its a shame that typically will not run in the other direction as well.


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