I hereby reaffirm: the possibility of self-improvement

Mac Watson

Editor’s note: “I hereby reaffirm,” a new corner of the The Lawrentian, aims to foster a campus-wide dialogue about personal belief. What do you believe? Think about it, write it down, and send it to lawrentian@lawrence.edu

For several weeks, I have been waiting for something sufficient to write in to this column. In writing the following, I hope not to convince you, but really only myself.

That is why it pains me slightly that the event that sparked my spontaneous flow of emotion could be seen as trivial, my article tongue-in-cheek, but it is not. I do believe in human resilience, in our eternal ability to improve ourselves.

Despite a multitude of minor successes this term, I remained dejected, disappointed, even occasionally despaired. Many things I had hoped would be natural to me by now seemed utterly out of reach. This was not the 21-year-old self five-year-old me had posited — there were more gold medals, less belly-button lint.

Combined with my increasing anxiety about the world, often fueled by others’ unwillingness to reform what I saw to be wrong with them, I retreated into solitary contemplation more and more. How could I expect anything from anyone else, when I could not even steward myself?

One night, after a particularly large set of banal failures, where I had behaved in ways I had for a long while, in principle, been essaying to disavow, I lay shivering in my bed, clothed in a pajama set, contemplating turning up the dial on my radiator.

“Ah, fuck it,” I thought, “The campus center uses more energy in a minute than the consummate differential would be of having it on full blast all night.”

But then, I realized with the help of my waffle-knit pajamas and thick comforter, I could continue my term-long effort to reduce my energy consumption, even taking some comfort in the cold.

I realized self-improvement — and therefore improvement of my own environs — was possible.

It starts small, with a concretization of sentiment, and although I have failed in almost every major personal attempt this term — accurately expressing my emotions, quitting smoking, writing an excellent paper, exercising occasionally — maybe these things are now possible as well. Although perfection may be too lofty a goal to achieve in one lifetime, for now, my radiator stays on “1.”

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