To be 18 again. With nothing but energy, enthusiasm and conviction - we believed we could change the world. Unabashedly unafraid to hold fast to our truths and speak up and out, we didn't realize the cruel trick time would play on us. And I'm not talking about the wrinkles, the arthritis or the less-than-sharp memory.
We find ourselves a bit older, more often exhausted than energized, and perhaps only a "smidge" wiser, and generally detached from the beliefs that used to make us want to make a difference. We have retreated to our caves where our dust-covered convictions hang over the mantle, framed in yesterdays and warmed only by the embers in the fireplace, not the once roaring flames in our hearts.
And why not retreat to our caves? Energy-sucking-temperature-controlled worlds, plush with all the comforts we so justly deserve; high-speed internet access to foster personal connections without intimacy, alarm systems to protect from the unknown, fences to separate us from neighbors, gadgets and toys to keep us in a constant state of busy-ness and enough square footage so that we collide only as often as necessary. It's no wonder we've lost touch with our convictions and the notion of what to do with them.
Convictions without action are like pretty things on a shelf: you can take them out to show your friends but they are quite useless decorations otherwise. To ignite conviction requires a chain of events that ends with an impact. First, that certain something jars your slumbering existence and your head and heart begin to pound with force; your eyes sharpen their focus to crowd out distractions. Your ears tune into a pitch high above the din of ringing cell phones, dinging in-boxes, the vapid squawk of reality TV, screaming ear buds and hot-air "hands-free" conversations. Your yawning jaw nearly unhinges as you begin to speak in tongues with unfamiliar language and you look at yourself and say, "Who is this person?"
Mind you, even with your bodily systems working in passionate synchronicity, it's not easy. You may feel full of truth and rhythm but look like Elaine Bennis from Seinfeld on the dance floor, thumbs and legs at awkwardly opposed angles. It's ok. You don't have to look good - or sound good - to do what you believe is right.
Recently, members of our own communities traveled to Hartford to give testimony at a hearing on a bill being introduced regarding the labeling of GMO (genetically modified organism) food in Connecticut. Although the turnout was strong and the day went well, I know they would have appreciated more support.
I was not there...I was hiding in the cave I call my kitchen. While I speak with conviction on a great many things related to food, here was an opportunity to wake from slumber, sharpen my focus, unhinge my jaw to speak my mind and to dance like Elaine Bennis in front of this committee of strangers.
I was too busy, too overwhelmed, too nervous, too something to stand up for what I believe in and I wanted to put it out there for others to think about that unless we are willing to be uncomfortable or unpopular, to stand up when you'd rather sit, to speak up when it's easier to shut up, who do we have to blame but ourselves when the world isn't quite the way we think it should be?
Whatever you believe in that seems hard to act on, whether it's simply telling the truth when it's easier to tell a little lie, taking the extra effort to live a greener life, or showing up when your cause is calling you: harness the 18-year-old who’s sleeping within you and come on out of your cave, stand up straight and do the right thing. The world needs more dancers like Elaine.
Editor's note: Fairfield, Conn.-based Linda Soper-Kolton is the owner and chef of GreenGourmetToGo in Bridgeport.