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The hair dryer is blowing loudly in my ear and I can still hear the ding from my cell phone—millennial super powers.
I’m in a dingy hotel room in St. Louis, Missouri. I’m sick of the Midwest. I’ve been away from my cozy apartment in Los Angeles for one week now, and I’m homesick and slightly irritable.
Maybe that explains what happens next.
I turn off the dryer and look to my phone to see an Instagram message. I slide open the contents and peer inside. The small box in my hand lights up and text appears. Someone is writing to tell me something—something they consider to be important. So important that they took 30 seconds out of their day to contact a complete stranger with the following message. It went a little something like this:
“Skip the straws, yes. But in your 24-hour story you also had a single-use Starbucks cup. Being passionate about the environment is great but what is passion if it is just something you preach but don’t do?”
I am instantly offended. Didn’t she notice that I didn’t use a cap or a straw in my cup for this exact reason? I have a travel mug being delivered to me as we speak, which will likely be waiting on my front stoop the moment I return home tonight. Doesn’t she know that I’m doing my best?
She doesn’t even know me. If she did, she would know that I’m always turning off the lights and using my canvas shopping bag. I care! Why doesn’t she know that I care? Why am I so upset about what this woman said to me?
I type up a defensive message filled with explanations about why I’m trying and why that is enough. I want her to know that I do practice my passion. That I get soy lattes and carry a metal straw because I want to help the environment. I do give a sh*t. I walk to 75 percent of my destinations because the idea of hurting our planet scars my own heart. I want her to know that I understand why our planet needs me—that I am willing to show up in my Captain Planet cape and slay the evil polluters before they can harm her one more time.
I want her to know that I’m not a hypocrite. I’m not a fake.
Then I delete the message. I thank her for her input. I agree that we need to work together to make these necessary changes and that her passion is inspiring.
I have learned many things in my 26 years on this planet. One of the ongoing lessons being that what disturbs us in others is mostly what disturbs us about ourselves. Our environment is a reflection of us, and with everything we experience we are offered an inside look into who we are.
So when this woman called me out, I got a taste of my own feelings toward myself. I have been harboring a personal resentment because I haven’t completely committed to the mission that I preach. I haven’t gone completely vegan, only mostly vegan. I haven’t perfected my abolishment of single-use plastic, I’ve only given up some of it. I don’t always bring my canvas bag to the grocery store okay? I’ll admit it.
I got defensive because she was right. My heart stung because I knew that I hadn’t done my best. Her pointing out my flaws didn’t hurt me, it was me knowing that she was right that made me bleed.
If we are going to talk about how much we care, we need to actually show up and do what is necessary to make the big changes happen. If I’m going to show up on Instagram and talk about my metal straws, but then forget to say “no straw” with my happy hour margarita, then my eco purchase doesn’t mean sh*t. If I’m only going to show up on social media but not step it up fully in real life, then I’m the one I should be angry with. That woman was not wrong to call me out, and my anger only proved that she was right.
We are all doing our best, no matter what it looks like. Each day is going to provide its fair share of challenges; sometimes we will slip up and we will not always give as good as we got. But when we get angry at criticism, when we hear what another person has to say to us and we drop our hair dryer to respond in defense, we may take that moment to ask ourselves: am I angry because they’re right? Am I doing my best? What could I have done better, and what will I do differently next time?
Maybe instead of fighting, instead of reacting, we can take a moment to feel our emotions and wonder where they came from. Maybe we can learn from our anger, instead of spreading it to the next person.
I ordered a soy latte at the café this afternoon. Coffee mug for here. This time, I’ll be who I say I am. This time, I’ll actually do my best.