He operates on great intentions and learns that their worth varies. Those designs, to protect the environment and create sustainable change, traded best on the circle seated collegiate green scene. His classes informed his perspective on modern society, from its consumerist excesses to its entrenched anthropocentrism, only to leave their information’s end ambiguous. Should he go off the grid and or become a hermit in the woods? Should he assimilate into the system, furthering the problems therein, in the hopes of changing it from within? Looking at his final transcript, the only finality he found was his learned concepts problematic nebulousness. Looking at his adult life, he sometimes feels as though he has fallen into a crack on the American dream’s sidewalk.
From colleagues to friends and family, no one seems to notice his eco-concern's depth. Instead, everyone’s blissfully walking above his stuck fixation on change and near paralyzing fear of forgetting to care. Some say he’s out of touch and puts too much stress on his shoulders; surviving your twenties, that’s hard enough without fretting over the atmosphere. He thinks that he feels the world acutely, “Much like a nineteenth century transcendentalist,” he tells himself, fist clenched. He thinks Muir may have related and been similarly conflicted. Then, fist holstered, he decides to ruminate on global issues after biking home.
As he glides downtown, a spring breeze carries the sweet scent of lilacs through a park. The skyline was obscuring sunset before and, from a new angle, the buildings glow brilliantly against the fading azure and orange above. A nascent smile forms as he crosses a suspension bridge; each pedal push sending another trouble into the rushing water below. Checking his bike into the station, he notices the neighborhood’s tidy charm. The budding walk home absorbs him and, at the front door, he’s grinning ear to ear: his invitation came. His opportunity to make a difference, change, somewhere it might matter, Africa. His life has lovely trappings here, but he feels like his purpose rests across the Atlantic.
Two years later, he wonders where his service went. Where are the differences he was supposed to have made hiding? He’s lived and sweat and tried in another culture. He’s become a stronger, more introspective individual, but what was it all worth? On the darker days, all he sees are the local problems still present. The piles of garbage, the thoughtless littering, the deforestation, the brush fires. In lighter times, he notices, hears, and appreciates all of his Togo life’s beautiful aspects. Everyone’s approachability, the street’s messy rhythm, connections, the joie de vivre. The times where a funeral party and its drums, dancing, and drink never seem to end. Maybe there was a balance, at times unsteady, between what he’s invested and what’s been done? As he prepares to return, he sets aside the search for answers to his service’s questions. He’ll check it like luggage at the airport and mindfully fly to another life.
More and more during adulthood, his education and experiences seem like resources to mine whenever possible but, also, challenges to mind in life’s journey. The blend of his past and future courses remains murky in its present form: hermithood, conflict, and assimilation are still equally undesirable. But then, opacity may always be born from such grandiose aspirations. Sometimes, he reasons or bargains with himself, sunset bike rides or an African fête are all one needs to feel like things will be alright. He remains thankful that environmental idealism dies hard, even as ephemeral bliss and recycled stress threaten it so often.