“But I want to go on the computer now!”
This was shouted at me by five-year-old Cecelia after I’d told her time and again that day that she had lost her computer privileges for the rest of the day at the preschool I work at.
This wasn’t a new dance for the two of us–or any other kid there, for that matter–but the accumulation of repeated offenses and my own selfish desires to be heard eventually led to a picked-up-carried-out-tear-filled visit to the Dreaded Principal’s Office.
Now, I don’t want dear Cecelia to come across your head as some sort of Veruca Salt incarnate. She’s really quite sweet, and I hate to send anyone, almost especially her (crossed arms, pouty lips, huge watery eyes–the works), to the Dreaded Principal’s Office.
This little encounter, however, among other things, has gotten me thinking a lot about the concept of utopia. Like Cecelia–who just wanted to have her way by being allowed to use the computer–and like myself–who just wanted a chill and fun Friday without any trouble from the kids–we all have our own desires that we wish could be achieved, regardless of whether they will actually happen or not. In light of an election year, we have one presidential candidate that speaks to voters whose ideal utopia is the past–he resonates well with people who long to return to, let’s say, the “great” ol’ days–and even the candidate himself lives in a mental utopia in which he can do or say whatever he wants to whomever he wants without consequence just because he, allegedly, has a lot money. But we have another candidate whose supporters hope to move this nation forward in ways that are quite, well, optimistic. And we have third-party candidates who are so delusional as to think that their very presence in the ballots is enough for them to win, and yet still another (recently dropped out) candidate who was able to convince millions of Americans that his perfect world ideas were possible and not, in fact, outlandish.
This is why we cling to ambitions that we know will never take on any sort of tangible form. This is why we plan for vacations that we will never be able to afford, and why we apply to jobs we will never be qualified for. This is why we (or I, at least) resonate with movies like Fiddler on the Roof, where the beloved protagonist’s life is pe
rfect until it isn’t, and where the new guy’s crazy ideas sound wonderful on paper but also fail miserably to come into fruition (I actually wrote a paper about this very topic last semester, just in case you were doubting my credibility to be discussing a subject such as this).
Oftentimes I find myself succumbed to my own utopian visions. I lie awake at night envisioning what my own “perfect world” would look like: I’d be living on my own; all my friends would be close by and I’d see them every day (which, come to think of it, might actually mean that my Utopia is in Abilene, Texas…); I’d be making enough money to pay off all my loans, sustain myself, and then some; I’d be taking my graduate school classes in person instead of online (again, Abilene…); I’d have a job either at a church or in the inner city helping to end poverty and racism and all those other things (with the help of all the amazing books I’d be writing); and oh, yeah, I’d also have a girlfriend. Like, the greatest, smartest, most caring, and most beautiful girlfriend ever.
To go along with that, I had recently found myself interviewing for my “ideal job” at a church in Richmond, Texas this past week. I’d invested so much into the idea of this job, even going so far as to telling my boss at the preschool that there was a chance I was going to be leaving soon (word to the wise: don’t ever do that). I was planning out my uncertain future–one that went past even my time with the church because, in my mind, I was already in the works of creating a life full of meaning and, though I’d never say it in person, success.
But if you haven’t guessed by now: I didn’t get the job. Despite all my ridiculous ambition, I still managed to fall flat on my face. I had practically put my entire identity into this job, and it hadn’t even been offered to me yet.
Of course, it always sucks to get rejected when you invest yourself into those kinds of things. But I also know that I did not apply and interview for this job with the purest heart and the best intentions in mind.
Now, you might say that even that is utopian in nature, and, honestly, I would, too. And you don’t have to be a psychologist to say that no one’s intentions will ever be completely pure, even if they’re wanting to work for the sake of others.
(I could also go on and on about how awful the job market is for millennials these days–low wages, living at home, needing an expensive education and applying for jobs that require experience that you don’t have because not a single job will hire you unless you have experience–but 1) I’ll leave that to all the other millennials struggling to find a job, and 2) my particular case with this job is just a part of life.)
The truth is, if we set any sort of genuinely optimistic standards for our lives, we are bound to get disappointed eventually.
But at the same time, I can’t help but cling to another addicting idea: hope. I feel like it’s easy to get caught in the utopian trap when we dare to put our hope in anything. And it’s certainly healthy, to an extent, to challenge oneself and to constantly strive for something better than what exists in the world today.
But as a Christian, I want to also do my best to put my hope in something that lasts, something that is eternal. Our world, our jobs, our successes and achievements–and yes, even our presidential elections–are temporary and earthly. I don’t say this to denounce everything in this world, but what I am saying is that if we put our hope in our jobs, we are wrong. If we put our hopes in our political parties or political candidates, we are wrong. If we put our hope in our own selfish desires, we are wrong.
So my hope from this experience is that I would better learn to hope in the things that matter. That regardless of what my occupation is, I might strive to advance the Kingdom of God in everything I do, even if that means tying a four-year-old’s shoe for the thousandth time in a week or telling twenty elementary-aged after school students to be kind and not hurt each other for the thousandth time in a week, or having the audacity to send adorable little Cecelia to the Dreaded Principal’s Office again rather than letting her just have her way.
I hope to be reminded of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in which he says not to store up treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-21).
I hope to strive for Eden and for the New Jerusalem, and to work toward these goals every day of my life, seeking justice where there is injustice, peace where there is violence, and love where there is hatred.
And maybe it’s a utopian desire, but I hope that we all can strive for these things, as well.
Thank you for reading. Until next time.