Pressure is a dangerous thing. It pushes, squeezes, crushes, anyone or anything that falls under it’s influence. The cautionary labels read; “Warning, contents under pressure”, in an effort to remind us of what should be intuitive knowledge, anything under pressure is prone to explode. “But pressure can refine, create, transform”, say the idealists.”Just look at coal, with the right amount of pressure it becomes a diamond.” And the idealists do well to think this way, but when considering their words it seems we forget one very simple, yet important truth, and it is this; we, the men and women of the human race, are not lumps of coal. We are flesh and blood and spirit too.
Today’s world is one of dead lines, due dates, and crunch time. To take an example from one of my english classes (paraphrasing the words as my brain hears them)
“You have one day to pick a poet, two days to pick a poem, three days to pick a published critique, five days to turn in a rough draft, two weeks to complete your paper, and everyday from now until then to discover new methods of procrastination.”
Ultimatums are found everywhere; turn in the paper or fail the class, finish the report, or lose your job, be on time, or don’t be there at all. And surely, pressures of this sort are necessary, to a degree, for our world to function. However, it is the more abstract pressures that push people beyond what they can bear.
From the time we are young our minds begin to fill with expectations. Some handed to us by the world we find ourselves in, and some of our own creation. “Buy this product” scream the billboards, commercials, ads, “and you will be as beautiful, popular, desirable as (fill in celebrity who has never actually used the product themselves here) “Go to our college, and you will be as sophisticated, smart, successful as (insert long list of alumni who have made enough of a name for themselves to have a wikipedia entry here. Disregard the fact that many other factors unrelated to their college of choice have brought them to the place they are today) And perhaps the most painful expectations are those put on us by our family. “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister? (don’t acknowledge the fact that siblings are in fact two different people, with different dreams, desires goals here.) I refer to these pressures as abstract because the expectations they put inside our minds aren’t as tangible as other pressures, but they are no less potent.
With all this pressure, we deceive ourselves into believing we are lumps of coal on our way to becoming diamonds, but the truth is that perfection has never belonged to mankind. Nonetheless, in an attempt to seize it, we take upon ourselves every pressure conceivable. Join every club, every group, every team. Take every class, every optional extra, every opportunity. Make any friends by any means for any recognition. We are not lumps of coal, but our fantasies of the diamonds we long to become make us crave, hunger, lust for perfection.
Pressure also destroys. From experience, pressure has shown me that it has the power to kill. Our world is being torn to shreds by pressure. I have seen friends and family members ripped apart by the pressure they subject themselves to.
“To be successful is to be rich”
“No it’s to have children”
“It’s about staying single”
It’s to be at the top!”
“It’s to know who you are”
“Who are you?
“You’re an artist”
“No your an athlete”
“You are an employee”
“Don’t be stupid”
“Be your own person. Be ready to conform”
“Make your own path. The worn roads are smoother”
And it goes on, on, on, until one day we snap. Like a deep sea diver realizing too late that they’ve gone too far and all of a sudden the weight is too much and their bones too brittle and their breath too shallow and the water too dark and their hearts too weak.
If only we would remember that we are not lumps of coal, but flesh and blood and spirit too. Pressure does not refine us, but we will never become diamonds, and perfection is a lost cause. My desperate plea for our world is that each and every one of us would simply be human. Find fulfillment in the rising of the sun, the way the rain feels as it falls on your face, the coolness of a breeze on a hot summer day. Find fulfillment in tears shed over lost friends, over broken hearts, over dark thoughts that leave you feeling so alone. Laugh when you feel a smile on your face, when life reminds you of how beautiful it can be, every time you fall, pick yourself back up and laugh. Most importantly; love. Love like you will be gone tomorrow, like you will never see him again, like this is your last time to hold her, because one day, it will be true. Dare to love without expectations, without need for perfection, without bounds. Love because without love every single thing you do will feel so incredibly empty, but nothing fills your soul so deeply as love.
The diamond we seek can be found in bits and pieces all around us, but only if we choose to see it. The pressure is there, but our hand is on the knob, and we must learn to control it.
The idealists are right, but don’t forget; we are not lumps of coal. We are flesh and blood and spirit too.