What Does It Mean to Make a Difference in the World?

I agonize over this as anyone with existential anxiety does, but especially so as a creator. What does it mean to make a difference in the world? Why are so many of us determined to leave our marks? Who are the people who have reconciled with the marks they will make versus won’t/once wished to?

For me, I always wanted to be a part of something greater. I had dreams of becoming a full-time writer and theatre artist while at the same time dreaming I could use those disciplines to “make a difference.” Now, I question what that thought of “make a difference” actually means.

Art is world-changing, if we sit still long enough and listen to it. Art–in all its forms–can bring people together, encourage communication and healing, and bring light to dire situations and causes. Those of us who do art maybe do not realize how much of an impact it can have, even if we don’t see our art as being “peace-building” or “world-changing” or “activism.” Sometimes, the art speaks for itself, and it speaks to every consumer differently than it may even speak to the artist. Whether you mean it to or not, your art says something; it is as inherent as what appears in your subconscious as you dream.

Some strive to make the biggest differences they can, and I commend them for that. In some ways, as they strive for it–as I once wanted to strive for it–I also wondered if maybe it was too cutthroat. Yes, even in an environment where everyone wants to do as much good as possible, you still must fight tooth and nail for recognition, for status, for what will define you as the go-to person for that specific cause or specific art medium or whatever. In reality, creation should never be cutthroat.

Growing up, I felt as though I must always be doing more, for nothing is ever enough, and nothing I do is ever enough. While this can be true, however, this is also some toxic thinking. What if, instead, I had sat with my thoughts and feelings and artistic process more? What if I had acknowledged that my process was ever-evolving, never perfect, always reaching new heights and sights? What if my desire to help change the world could be rooted in something as simple as writing stories that are seemingly fantasy worlds, creating theatre to bring myself closer to others, to pursue endlessly even if I end up failing? What if I acknowledged that while I may never do enough, I must still keep going and trying and learning and unlearning and being? What if everything did indeed have a purpose and–even if it didn’t–why does it matter if it doesn’t?

There is intention and then there is force. By forcing myself to do things that I’m not meant to do, was I hindering myself from my artistic process? Forcing myself to “leave a mark” and “be worthy” rather than sitting with myself, worthy as I already am, for I was born into this world?

We all bring something into this world. Some of us cultivate that something, and others don’t. Some of us are content to consume that something and share it and love it rather than create it. Some of us use that something to bring about more change. I think all can be valid. What do you think?

Published by Alyssa C.

Writer & theatre artist from Iowa. Currently quarantining in the Pacific Northwest. MA in Intercultural Communication Studies from Shanghai Theatre Academy (expected 2021).

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