Leave it Better-
There was a certain glorious time in my life that I never want to go back to- my rave days. For those of you who were there, I don’t have to say anything else. For those of you who weren’t, you’d never understand.
Now that I’ve finished glancing off wistfully into the distance, there is one big takeaway that I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks- ‘leave no trace.’ Generally, if you’re going to a proper rave and it’s not in a warehouse (or the 90’s, for that matter,) it’s somewhere in the middle of nowhere, out in the woods that are down a dirt road from a tiny farm. Because of the location, and also because of the- let’s say, interesting- clientele, they’re very strict about not littering or ruining the environment, hence ‘leave no trace.’ It’s a great motto, and unfortunately, one that isn’t always followed- damn hippies.
The National Parks of this country have a similar unofficial motto- ‘leave it better than you found it.’ If you’re someone who has hiked or camped any significant amount, you’re probably familiar with it. This motto is the reason that there are trails and campgrounds in the parks instead of just brush and thistle. If you ever meet the people that make those trails, thank them- it’s hugely labor intensive and almost always a thankless job. That’s something that stuck with me, though- ‘leave it better.’ The thought raised a question for me,
“Am I leaving things better than I found them?”
The concept is certainly cause for reflection, and I’m not talking about cleaning up the environment here. Can you honestly say that every person you’ve met is better for having known you? What about your job- would they be better off with someone else, or are you valuable to them as an individual? It’s a tough question, and one that may be hard to answer honestly. I can say with confidence that when I was in college, I wasn’t always the most beneficial person to know- I was often reckless and self-destructive, and I definitely wasn’t a consistently good influence on the people around me.
However, like most things, admitting one has a problem is the first step, or so they say. You have to come to terms with the fact that you have room for improvement before you improve- and if you think you don’t have room for improvement, you’re most certainly wrong. That’s a good thing, though- to live is to improve and advance and conquer. Complacency is stagnation and entropy and death- and I, for one, do not have any desire to die.
If you can get this mentality down, you’ll start to influence others to do the same. A great example of this is my unwitting test subjects, my roommates (who can take this up with me if they ever read this article.) When I first moved in, I started doing the dishes (because I, for whatever reason, genuinely enjoy doing the dishes most of the time.) Over time, we went from having a sink full of dishes constantly to being able to keep the sink mostly empty. Then, I started moving further out into the rest of the house. I cleaned the kitchen, the living room, my room, etc. You can read more about this below:
What I learned was that my theory was a success- both of my roommates recently completely cleaned out and redecorated their rooms (which was more of a feat than you may think,) all without anything but having set the example (and some occasional light prodding) from me. The big takeaway here: when we make things better, we inspire others to do the same. Complacency must be fought everywhere we find it, not with complaining but with action. See a mess? Clean it- even (and especially) if it isn’t yours.
If your goal is to have a clean house, accept that no one will do it unless you do- then do it, because it’s the right thing to do. This is a foolproof strategy, and it works for everything. Your actions have consequences, and how you are perceived by others, for better or for worse, has an effect on those who perceive you. This is an immutable law, but if you understand it, you can make it work for you. All that’s left is to decide what you want, and I, personally, want to leave it better than I found it.