As you walk purposelessly, existentially, through your bleak monotonous life you notice a drop of colour, zoning in on it like a heat seeking missile - your mission. Your passion. You see what needs to be done. Change is upon us! Change is your mission. Now there’s hope. For a technicolour future you fight!
Personally, I find the word quite daunting. In fact, I find comfort in the traditional, the immobile; the classics. Jane Austen and her words of wisdom, J.D Salinger and life’s paradoxical hypocrisy, George Orwell and what not to do (dear society take note).
But change nonetheless came at me with menacing cruelty in the form of my school’s Vice Principals and Higher-Ups, threatening to take from me my one comfort, what made the school day just about bearable; English Literature, under threat from course cancellation. Like my wonderful fictional friend Charlie, I was a wallflower but without the perks. The threat of change, however, with sharp teeth and angry eyes, ironically forced me to do just that. I had to speak up.
In the words of the great Leo Tolstoy “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” and, although definitely not a him, it was clear he was right about having to change myself. It was time to find my voice.
Although not a classic writer, I thought it was only fair I listened to Nelson Mandela’s advice. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And if that was the case, I concluded it was only fair I used my love of English Literature against my now sworn enemy – the school. The irony, I like to think would have made Holden Caulfield proud, although deep down I know he would’ve hated it, being an unmotivated, cynical angst-ridden teen and all. These traits made Holden loveable to me, relatable and perfectly flawed but he could no longer be my idol. Change was what was needed, and motivation, not profanity or tragic self-pity.
So, I did what the greats had taught me and wrote a letter to my Principal. With Holden’s cynical outrage at the ‘phonies’ who were preaching education one minute and trying to tear it from me the next, and Elizabeth Bennet’s most courteous yet lively diction, I noted the truth in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake reflection, that value placed on the arts and humanities is fast fading in favour of a perceived inherent superiority of STEM subjects. It hurt my heart to admit that my own school had caved to Atwood’s brutal prediction of society’s downfall.
Anyway, I like to think I was also lending a helping hand in preventing George Orwell’s dystopian totalitarian censorship state by exercising my right of free speech, so that evened it out. And it worked! With a letter, that snowballed into angry students and outraged parents, English Literature was saved, at least for another year.
See, it was saved because a group of people found their voice. They had something they wanted to protect and they came together to preserve it. It doesn’t have to be on a grand global scale or with a loudspeaker and a fierce mob (although that probably helps). It doesn't have to be a progressive statement or a political game-changer. If there is something that doesn’t seem right, or if your drop of colour seems like it might be blotted out, you have to find that colour and make it bleed all over the page. There might be pain, and let downs and low-points but at least life won't be black and white.
Find your voice and use it, because when it comes down to it, it’s all any of really have and when it’s used correctly it can be pretty damn powerful. Learn from the greats, whether they're writers, musicians, parents, teachers, leaders or girls who just want to go to school in their own country. Be the change you want to see, be brave and stand up for what you believe in. Do that, and you might just save somebody one day.