This week, I read an astonishing book – I Am Malala – about (and by) the young Pakistani girl who spoke up for the right of girls to go to school – and was shot for it. She and her father (an educator himself) had received numerous threats, and still they raised their voices from the Swat Valley against the misogyny of the Taliban, nearly paying the dearest price for their convictions. The story of the attack on her life in the fall of 2012 captivated the entire world.
For what would I be willing to risk my life?
It’s a hell of a question.
In her book, Malala speaks with such passion about her studies, her competitive nature come exam time, about her love of science, her voracious appetite for reading.
She also expresses her sadness about how many young girls and women in her country – and, indeed, around the world – are uneducated and illiterate, regarded as unequal to men and boys and not deserving of the same access to education and information.
It’s amazing what one takes for granted.
As much as I also loved (and still love) learning and reading, I really didn’t like school much beyond third grade. I was always shy, awkward, probably seemed aloof a lot of the time. I was so uncomfortable at school, more so as I got older. Naturally introverted, I shied away from most things social. I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I didn’t really like myself too much. I couldn’t wait to graduate and get the hell out of there.
On the heels of all this, there was a very moving video on wimp.com the other day, in which each day of one’s life is represented by jelly beans:
As the original pile of 28,835 jelly beans (representing an average lifespan) is whittled away to account for school, work, sleep, eating, commuting, watching TV, chores, errands, bathing and grooming, down to an unthinkable 2,740, the narrator asks a few stirring questions, including this one:
How much time have you already spent worrying instead of doing something that you love?
Boy, I do have a worry wart streak in me. I get it from my mother. I even worry sometimes that I worry too much.
Davy said something to me a while back that rings true. He observed that I wear the world as a tight garment.
I know what he means, and he’s right. I get up into my head a lot. I do hold the world close. It’s miraculous and maddening, inspiring and infuriating.
I think of all that time I spent worrying as a kid, too. Didn’t we all? Worrying about where I stood, how I seemed, what kind of mood Mom would be in when I got home, about doing okay in school.
About feeling safe and okay.
Nowadays, I worry that I might miss out on something, that some opportunity might pass me by because I’m not prepared for it, that I’ll have a dream about the most amazing song that would be a smash hit and then forget the whole damn thing as soon as I wake up.
Then, I read Malala’s book and I think, “What the hell do I have to complain about?”
In the grand scheme of things? Nothing at all. She is a champion, a hero – and I’m a hobbyist, living a charmed life.
Time to let all that tension out of my shoulders, contemplate and appreciate that finite supply of jelly beans, and savor their sweetness.