It always starts like this: A brand new day. A sense of endless possibility. A cup of steaming coffee.
You open your computer to start your workday. You’ve got a lot on your to-do list, but it’s one minute before 9 a.m. and you decide there’s time for a cheeky look at Facebook.
You watch the video and—wow!—these folks are really onto something. A $20 donation gets you a first edition copy hot off the press and you’re supporting a friend (or, more specifically, a friend of a friend-ish). You think: Sure, why not? Click, donate, done.
You decide to spend just a second on their blog, but you end up reading their entire life story, breaking your trance only to sip your coffee, which you notice is now cold. Cold? Already? You check the time. Somehow it’s 10 a.m. There seems to be something wrong with your wall clock. And your computer clock. And your wrist watch.
You go to the kitchen to make a new coffee. Back at your desk, hot coffee in hand, the day still rich with possibilities, you open a new Word document and—
You ignore it.
Bloop! Bloop! Bloop!
It’s now taking up far more energy to suppress the urge to check your messages than it would if you just checked it quickly. You see that John has sent you four texts:
John: You there?
John: Earth to Torre!
John: What’s up? Hey, I’m wondering if you’d mind having a look over something for me?
Torre: I’d love to help, but I’m really busy today.
John: I just need an extra set of eyes on it real quick.
Torre: Mine are currently fully booked.
John: It’ll only take a sec. Pleeeeeeeeeeeease?
Torre: Fine. Send it over.
John: You’re the best! I just emailed you.
Your email swooshes in a message from John. Attached is a 45-page business proposal with a short message:
“Thoughts? – John.”
Within three sentences of reading John’s proposal, you know it’s an awful idea and nobody is ever going to buy this crap, even if Antarctica melts and the ocean levels rise up and up and up, and you’re left stranded on a tiny island with one single palm tree, mounds of dead plankton, and this person’s shitty product.
No, John. Non. Não. Nai. Nee. Niet. No.
But you can’t tell your friend his idea is bad—you’ll crush his enormous ego and come off as an unsupportive jerk. So you spend the good part of an hour crafting a reply, trying to strike the right balance between blunt honesty and validating praise.
You pull out the thesaurus several times, searching furiously for something that has the same meaning as the word ‘worthless’ but with all the good cheer of ‘wonderful.’
You find nothing.
You write 26 separate drafts of feedback before you notice it’s now noon and you haven’t even started your own projects, so you select the latest draft of your carefully worded critique, hit delete, type “Fantastic, John!” and click send.
Now, finally, back to work.
You need to close all open browser windows to eliminate distractions, but while doing so, an urgent plea somehow manifests on your screen:
You click through to the story and find great atrocities are happening in the world. Dolphins, blood human greed! WHY?! HOW CAN PEOPLE HARPOON THEIR TINY LITTLE GRINNING FACES? Adrenalin pumps through your system so fiercely that your vision trembles.
Unacceptable! Something has to be done RIGHT NOW! Those gentle beasts of the depths are dying because of mankind’s horrors. But that is just the beginning. More causes cry out for you to feed them, like hungry little birds:
Australia wants to log a World Heritage rainforest!
Guns in America! They’re still legal because: rednecks!
Amazon, Google, Apple, and Costco predicted to merge into one giant dictatorship called Apooglezonco, but the good news is, you’ll be able to order your Soylent Green from an App.
You have to stop this! You have to change the world right now!
The modern guide to
changing the world:
- Fill out an online petition with loud, angry keyboard strokes.
- Rant on social media using clusters of exclamation marks!!!
- Find a charity who’s helping. Like their Facebook page.
- Shake your fist at the sky like you really mean business.
- Run out of ideas on how to change the world.
- Throw your hands up and declare:
Meanwhile, clock hands spin…
Everything spirals and the space-time continuum folds in itself and you are lost…
Tumbling down the warped and twisted rabbit hole…
The internet has you in its hold…
You are powerless…
And then something touches your leg and you come-to as if an Epi shot to the heart has pulled you from a drug stupor. You look down: the dog. Oh yes, the dog.
She’s upset because it’s past the time for her walk. She looks starkly real to your hazy eyes, as if she’s being lit by nauseatingly bright fluorescent glow of a 24-hour 7-Eleven. Oh yeah, the real world, you remember. That’s, like, a thing.
The morning has dissolved into noon, which is quickly slipping into darkness.
You close your laptop, and with it you shut down all the tragedy, all the needy causes, all the corruption, all that’s wrong in the world.
Dead dolphins: gone.
Crazy politics: disappeared.
Impending disaster: averted.
Outside, the air is crisp and the birds are tucking their little wings into the warmth of their bodies for the night. You breathe in the smell of dewy grass and wet soil and gum leaves crunching underfoot. Your dog gazelle-leaps through tall grass to avoid getting her belly wet, and her fat little low-rider gut makes you laugh.
The world is still beautiful.
And alive and well.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.