Chapter 4: An Autobiography of an Idealist

A Letter From an Idealist to the Realists Who Love Her

I am writing to you because, for whatever reason, there are a lot of you, and many of you are the ones I hold closest, the ones who have the power to shake me to my very core with an off-hand comment.

I like being around you because I admire who you are and what you have built.  You help keep me anchored and help me question and reevaluate what I think I believe so I do not become a sheep; even a sheep with the best intentions can be led down a dark or, perhaps worse, meaningless path.

So please, keep asking me critical questions.  Keep helping me revise and reevaluate.  But do not tell me to be a realist.  Do not tell me it is not worth it to help people, or that my dreams are not plausible.  Do not tell me the highest calling in this world is to carve out a comfortable nook in which my loved ones and I can be content.

Don’t get me wrong–it’s not that that is not a high calling.  But I want more.  I want others to have the power to protect and provide for the people they love as much as you love me.

I know people like you are absolutely necessary to keep the world spinning, to maintain and improve the structure of civilization in which we all live.  But people like me cannot bear to see that civilization rolling over others whose only sin is to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or maybe they have worse sins, but that’s why my favorite concept is redemption.

“The only way to truly hurt a man is to make him a worse man.”
-Plato, Republic

I would like you to know that every time you knock some sense into me, I lose a little bit of who I am.  I cannot be who I am without extending my hand to help others be who they are.

And yes, I know I’m not always happy about what I do.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming to try to help everyone else solve their problems when I have some of my own.  It can be frustrating to feel like I cannot make the slightest ripple in the status quo.

And yes, I know I will probably never be “successful” in my own right.  Compassion and empathy are not skills that will get one to the top.

fullsizerenderDo you know, I’ve carried an inspirational quote around in my wallet for enough years that I should know by now that I need to copy it onto something more durable.  (By the way, you know me–I generally have a distaste for inspirational quotes.  So cliche.)  But this one says:

“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

This quote does not have the intended effect on me–quite the contrary.  I think it sounds wonderful to help somebody else build their dream.  I keep this to remind me where my priorities are, and to remind me that I am not like you.  Even in the moments I admire, and even envy you, I need to remember that I am not you.

So I guess what I am asking is that when I am frustrated or burnt out, lost or confused, I hope you remind me of who I am instead of telling me I need to be somebody different.

I love you, and you are indispensable to me.  And of course, if you need me, I am here to help, support, and love you, too.

Love always,



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