Leveling Up

I turn 42 today, which means (obviously) that I now know all the answers to life, the universe, and everything. Tragically, I’ll forget them when I turn 43, but I suppose that’s the price of old age.

One of the things I’m reflecting on today is how I feel like I’ve grown personally over the years, and the importance of remember other people are going through the same process, although likely in a different order than you.

For example, last week I read an article about how bad plastics have really proven to be for our environment, and how unrealistic it is that recycling them is a longterm solution. This stuck with me, since I’d always just not bothered thinking about what happened to things I threw away. It crossed my mind that it had to go somewhere, but I had too many other things to worry about than to worry about every little thing I was getting rid of. But for some reason, this article clicked with me. It made me wonder what I could do to make things a bit better.

What am I going to do? Well, I started by looking at the things I buy consistently that come in plastic. The nice thing in my case is that since I’m such a creature of habit, it’s fairly easy to identify what I’m doing that might be changed, and then it’s just a matter of coming up with an approach that might lessen that impact. Denisa already does a great job of reducing a lot of our family’s waste, because this has been a much bigger issue to her than it was to me. (She leveled up in it long before I did.) But I still go through a fair bit of plastic packaging from peanut butter jars, milk jugs, and powdered peanut butter. Everything else I eat comes in paper or recyclable bags. (Bread. Bananas (no packaging at all!). Chocolate chips (bought in bulk). Oatmeal.) My daily vitamins do come in plastic, but it’s small, and I go through two containers a year. Nothing heavy. Peanut butter, however, I go through a fair bit of. (No judging my eating habits, please. I haven’t leveled that up yet.)

So what am I going to do? I’m going to look into buy peanuts in bulk bags and then making my own peanut butter. My Blendtec should handle it, and then I can just make it in advance and store it in glass jars. And I can use peanuts in my shakes instead of peanut powder. More calories, but no plastic.

I’m not trying to thump my chest here and say “look at how awesome I am.” Mainly because I don’t think there’s anything awesome that I’m doing. It’s just a small thing that I can do, and so I’m going to try to do it. This comes on top of other decisions I’ve made to try to lessen my impact on the environment. We drive small cars (never bought a minivan), and one is a hybrid. I try to carpool when I can. I vote for people who will do their best to enact laws that will benefit the environment. I don’t eat much meat at all.

But that’s just one area of my life. I’ve also worked on leveling up other areas: my weight and my health, my sleeping habits, my reading habits, my patience, acceptance of other people, faith, family interactions, etc. There are so many different ways we can all become better people.

Of course, this leads to the question of what to do about people who don’t do the same things I do. For that, I try to remember I wasn’t always where I am now, and other people need to have the chance to grow at their own rate. Likewise, there are going to be areas where someone else is leveled up beyond me, and I would like to think they’d extend the same understanding to me.

When we begin to view other people as ignorant or stubborn or lacking because they don’t share our views, that’s a dangerous stance to be taking. I may really loathe our current President, and I may be very disappointed that the entire country doesn’t share that same sentiment, but I don’t think it’s true or helpful to begin assigning labels to those who continue to support Trump. “If you support Trump, you’re a racist” is no more helpful than someone saying “If you support Biden, then you’re a socialist.” (Though that contrast assumes “racist” and “socialist” are equally bad. But I’m not going to go there right now.)

I believe most people are trying to do the right thing, from their understanding. If we try to assume the best of others and their intentions, we have a much better chance of reaching compromises and making progress than we do if we assume the worst. Right now, it feels like too many of us are more concerned with trying to swell our ranks by making the people we disagree with look as villainous as possible. Look at the rhetoric on both sides. Trump would have you believe all of his opponents are planning on blowing up the entire country the moment they reach power. Many of his opponents want to label anyone who votes for Trump as a Nazi. This leaves people who find themselves in the middle feeling like they really don’t know which way to go. Do they vote for the anarchists or the dictator?

I’m not going to unfriend someone based on their politics. I believe there are many, many good people on both sides of the aisle. Yes, I have very clear opinions, and the choice this year seems obvious to me. But I realize it might not be that easy to others, depending on where they’re standing and what areas they’ve leveled up in. (No doubt to my opposites, I simply haven’t leveled up yet in the right categories, either.) There are good, sincere people on both sides who are earnestly trying to do their best. Let’s find each other and work together to make this world better.

Anyway. I don’t know what sort of a conclusion I can make beyond that. I will keep doing what I’ve tried to always do: be a better person, treat people with the kindness and understanding I’d like to be treated with, and do the best I can with the information I have, always trying to become better informed.

Happy Monday.


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