We are always told that one of the sole purposes of living is to dedicate your life to others, to help others, to do something for others, to do something for society.
I used to think that I am not someone who can do something for society. How am I supposed to do something for society, when all I ever think about is myself? I am a person with low agreeableness level who finds it hard to sympathise with others in most cases. I am not interested in things like civic engagement.
To be honest, sometimes I felt guilty for my personality. For not being able to sympathise with people. I felt like I was self-centred and I don't care about people, or society. I even felt like I am an individualist.
Last year, I joined Voices of Youth. And I discovered that there are a lot of people who work on issues other than civic engagement and human rights. And those issues are not any less important. Issues like mental health, education and self-love. Those issues that often go unnoticed, also the people that work on them.
That is when I knew that not everyone is passionate about same issues. I appreciate and support those people who work for community and society, who work on social issues like the environment, gender equality, human rights, but I don’t feel bad for not joining them.
I realized that I actually care about others when they care about the things I care about, when I can relate to their problems. For instance, if someone says to me that they are struggling with mental health issues, I can empathize with that person. If someone whines about the education system, I will whine along with that person. If someone says they have self-esteem issues, I may try talking to that person. I would rather work on disability rights.
I am interested in human life. Human life as individuals. Because of my personality, I enjoy working with individuals rather than communities. I focus more on my own well-being, personal growth and mental health and through that, I can connect to other individuals like me. Now I think that is alright. Because the world also needs us, who advocate for issues that are related to individuals. I, and we, are actually working for others. For a community where people like us belong, people who are struggling with mental health, who are victims of the broken education system, who are having a hard time accepting themselves.
I started doing all this for myself. I started writing for myself. But a writer is incomplete without readers. That means, my purpose is to connect to them. The blogs I wrote were my ways of inspiring myself. But through that, I reached others. Some people may say, “What is the point of merely writing? Do you think you will really be able to bring a change this way?” I will say, “That is my way to make the world a better place. And I may not be able to change the society, but I can at least help some individuals.”
Because of my disabilities, I cannot participate in field works. But I can work from my table. I can use my hands, my fingers for advocacy. I want to take up teaching as my future profession. Why? Because I want to help my future students live their life properly. I want to teach them things that life taught me. That is another way of helping people.
To me, BTS is a great example. They worked on "love myself". They did it out of their own pains and struggles. But through that, they reached the heart of millions of people and changed their lives. They said, “True love first begins with loving myself.”
You won’t be able to care about others truly and sincerely unless you care about yourself. Now I can say, I care about the world. I do it in my own way, by being myself. By caring about me, I care about the world. That is just another way of helping people. Doing something for others, helping others – these things are engraved in our soul. It is just we all do it our own ways.
‘Youth advocacy’ – I wasn’t familiar with the term earlier. I never had a plan to become a youth advocate.
Recently I have read a book, Lights On The River by Nikolai Dubov. The author talked about participation of young people, and youth advocacy. He described it like – they are younger but their work is like that of adults, not fully but almost there. Reading that, I thought about myself, and my Voices of Youth teammates. I started writing blogs without a plan. I didn't even know that I was passionate about mental health. I just wrote about things that I felt I should write. And then, the invitation to the Youth Mediathon came like a surprise. I participated in the project, along with the six other members. To me, it was just a part of ‘doing myself’. I didn't have to make an effort or think and research. I just expressed what I expected from my parents. But it was a milestone. That was the moment when I became a real youth advocate.
Being a youth advocate takes nothing much. You can do it too. Just find something you are passionate about. Be yourself and speak yourself. Look inside your heart. Maybe you can be the one to initiate the change around you.