"Put on your oxygen mask first before helping others." Every airline gives this seemingly innocent advice before the wheels of the plane ever leave the ground. And it makes sense, if you can't breathe, how can you possibly help your neighbor? But do we take this too far? Does this penetrate our everyday lives too deeply? I wonder how often this mindset is used an excuse, a source of escape from giving back.
As I think about my next steps after college, I keep saying to myself "don't go home." But why is this? To the outside world I say I want to have new experiences, I want to achieve all that I can. But I live in a city, and have only the qualifications for an entry level job. If I truly wanted to begin that path of achievement in my hometown I probably could. But this is not the case. I'm eager to be on the first flight out of here as soon as possible.
I can blame it on the city atmosphere or blame ambition but the truth is, I feel weighed down when I'm here. I look around and see all the people who have never left and label them as "stuck." But what I really mean is that: their current position in life, in some way, makes me uncomfortable--and I don't want to see it, don't want to think about it and most certainly don't wish to live it. I look around me and somewhere along the way, an innocent look around transforms into simply looking down.
We place value on education. We believe more degrees equal greater success. And maybe to some extent this is true. But that depends on how we're defining success. We spend so much time chasing that next milestone, that next rung on our imaginary ladder of success, that we forget to look back and give back to the people and places that have carried us the entire way. And on the off chance that we do give a slight glance "backwards," it's often with an air of arrogance and a self-congratulatory nose to the sky.
We cloak this flight from our homes in phrases like "I want to make it, so I can give back." There is certainly honesty in and a very real component to that mindset--but is it always the case that you can't help others before fully "making it" yourself? How are we defining making it? How do we know the finish line won't just keep moving? It's quite possible that our tunnel vision and so-called focus will lead us to continue down the road to ambiguously defined success without any regard for those we left behind or those standing right beside us. And I just question whether we comfort ourselves with this "gotta make it" attitude to hide the fact that deep down we have no genuine desire to pay it forward.
At our core, we are selfish beings. Perhaps, it's time we acknowledge that and begin to reexamine our true motives. Maybe we don't all want to give back, maybe we don't see that as our duty. That's not my place to judge. But consider what your life would look like if everyone who ever supported you in any way chose to keep those pieces of themselves to themselves, for themselves, because they hadn't quite made it to this illusionary destination we all seem to be racing toward. Would you still have access to that oxygen mask?
Hey everybody, I'm Kyra, a Cleveland native with a love for words. As someone who can be soft spoken at times in a world full of noise, writing is a way to find my voice and share my thoughts with others. Hope y'all enjoy this peep hole into my inner world. Much love.
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