Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eating Gold, and Other First-World Qualifiers

I have not updated this recently, but that is because I have been quite busy contemplating the grandeur of my life.


I recently had surgery to repair a funky ligament in my elbow, and got to laze around the house for an entire month earning absolutely no money and sapping cash from my loving and concerned parents.

This was not life-saving surgery. My ligament was not going to suddenly demand control of the lower intestine and hold my biceps hostage until its demands were met. I was in pain due the nerve it was pinching, yes, but I was in no immediate danger.

What really astonished me was how completely useless I felt. my mother kept reassuring me that it was fine, but I had never contributed so little to the household since I was too small to even do my own laundry. Because I had so much time to think, I began to realize that having so much time to recover was a luxury many people cannot afford.

A few weeks into my recovery, my family went to a very fancy event at an undisclosed location (not classified, I just don't want you stalking me). The food was amazing, even though the chef was cooking for maybe two hundred people or more. Everyone smiled, and there were lots of little old ladies with walkers and checkbooks bigger than the Empire State building.

What really got to me, though, was a particular dessert. There were fruit tarts, pistachio thingies, and this little chocolate mousse with something shiny on top... I called over a waiter, and the conversation went like this:

"What's that?"
"Chocolate Mousse"
"And the thing on top, is that icing?"
"No, that's 14 karat gold"

We were eating gold.

I had been explaining to people I met all night that I was going to an environmental school, and they all smiled and called me an Eco-warrior or something, and here I was committing a heinous (and very consumerist) crime against the environment by choosing to eat something that had absolutely no nutritional value, and probably cost someone their home in the process of mining. I felt like a horrible person.

On the ride home from the event(in my mother's Chevy hybrid), I could not stop exclaiming how strange that was to me, and how I felt divided between two worlds. I wanted to be the Eco-warrior and beat back pollution from the last remaining scraps of wilderness... but at the same time I had been raised in this very elite group, and I was very comfortable in my heels, pencil skirt, dress shirt, and mindless polite conversation. I was comfortable reducing my educational goals to a simple sentence or two and taking out the sci-speak.

But, as my mother said, that is what will make me valuable to the Eco-warriors. Without the scientists that can talk to the little old ladies who want to donate to help sea turtles but don't know where to start, there would be no environmental movement. "Saving the Planet" costs a lot of money, and without the social events that may do damage to the environment, there could be no motion towards restoring it again.

Perspective in hand, I have a new view of my education. So many of my classmates want to be the super-scientist or the Eco-warrior, but may not learn how to talk directly to the agents of change (not small change, I guarantee) that can finance their "the Man is evil and I need to save the whales right now!" mentality. But that's okay, I can pimp for nature, and they can do the hard lab stuff.