This continues a series I started in 2018 of lessons I learned during the past year. We’re not just at the end of a year; we’re at the end of a decade. And I can distill every life lesson from the 2010s into a single sentence:
We always have a choice.
I know this sounds glib and unrealistic. We often find ourselves in situations where we have no choice, and we are at the mercy of things beyond our control. But we’ve seen examples of people in those situations who made the best of the choices they could find. People whose loved ones were wantonly slaughtered turned their grief into activism. Young people led movements against climate change, gun violence, and attacks on their civil rights. Women who have been harassed and assaulted stood up to the powerful men who victimized them. By choosing courage, they’ve stirred our conscience and helped move society forward.
In my life, I’ve found that everything good that has happened came from a decision to choose better. It’s choosing to send out one more manuscript submission, deciding to work on my health instead of accepting cardiovascular disease as my family’s legacy, and saying yes to any speaking opportunity that comes along. It has also meant walking away from bad situations, learning from setbacks, and struggling through hard times.
They say you can’t change your circumstances, but you can decide how you’ll respond to them. I know this to be true.
The world in 2020 seems bleaker than it did in 2010. We are more divided and less confident in our future. We feel powerless against the greed and cruelty that surround us. At times like these, it’s easy to fall into despair. We are too afraid to act, or we consider action a futile waste of time. We close our eyes to the growing peril and hope we can avoid the inevitable consequences.
We must remember that those are choices too.
The world calls upon us to make better choices. To have the courage to speak out for what we believe in. To make necessary changes in our lives to be healthier and more fulfilled. To be better people, parents, and partners. To build a more just and humane world. We always have a choice. Let’s choose to build better lives and a better world.