On My Radar: What Does Proximity Mean To You?
Being in California has made me examine how physical proximity to certain people and experiences have informed my life. My life was altered in countless ways after moving to NYC in 2004. Proximity to something of value is something that people are willing to risk everything for, as best illustrated in a recent case of a mother who “broke the law” attempting to get her daughter enrolled in a better school outside of her district. This mother knew the value of proximity; a different environment — proximity to better resources — can change everything.
Protesters in Egypt are using the illusion of proximity through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to bring their revolution closer to the minds of people around the world. Their real time video clips, status updates, and photographs help everyday people to see what fighting for your rights truly entails. Meanwhile, this “armchair participation” taking place all over the world has greater implications. What do you do with the information? How can you help? What would happen if these “watchers” mobilized in their own countries and used their economic power to boycott strategically to inform change in Egypt? What would happen? What COULD happen?
And why don’t everyday people take to the streets in the U.S. to fight for what we want anymore? Proximity to cheap entertainment, food, and other distractions makes it easy to ignore the things we truly need, and saps us of our energy and motivation to fight. We are too close to the American Dream to see the nightmare.
What would you do if the U.S. government shut down cellphone and internet access? Proximity to knowledge and ways to access it offline would mean everything to you, more than ever before.
Closer proximity to the things that improve my life is why I’m interested in travel, in work that gives me the flexibility and freedom to move around the country, and why I’m willing to sacrifice the illusion of stability to get what I need.
Differing levels of proximity to anything is directly tied to privilege. If you’ve never lived in an impoverished neighborhood, it’s hard to empathize with the paradox of never leaving a neighborhood to face the great unknown, despite the danger at home. Sometimes it feels safer to be close to something harmful that you understand than to brave proximity to a world you can’t decipher. It’s why battered women stay close to the partners who hurt them — to put it simply, it’s a role they understand. Life without the familiar ritual of abuse would be just as scary. Breaking away takes courage that some people don’t have.
If you don’t see yourself as being worthy to be near anything good, you will stay exactly where you are.
I am privileged to have so much control over my proximity to events, people, and experiences that help me to see the world from new perspectives. At Sundance, I was able to witness with my own eyes how that festival informs the industry. Subletting in Oakland for the past few months has given me new awareness of the pros and cons to queer gentrification in neighborhoods of color, and my month in Paris last September helped me to see tangible examples of how culture travels from one country to the next and the implications of that constant remixing.
Proximity brings knowledge, understanding, and a cultural exchange that can’t always be found in books. True, technology helps with proximity to things you can’t afford to experience in person (following hashtags, watching livestreams, etc.) but people still need guidance with identifying those tools.
Who do you see everyday and what are your rituals? The things closest to you in your life influence your choices in so many ways. Often all it takes to bust out of a damaging cycle is to try something new. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that, and requires an overhaul of saying goodbye to toxic friends, bad habits, and physical spaces that lead to self destruction. Putting distance between you and your familiar reality can open many doors.
You don’t have to be rich to do this. You don’t have to have a college degree, a trust fund, supportive parents, or a car. All you need is your will and to promise to not hate yourself for making mistakes. Everyday, all over the world, people make one mistake after the other. Life is a series of mistakes. You’ll get closer to the things you’re good at, that make you happy to be alive, by learning from your mistakes.
Proximity to and then experiencing true freedom is what I’m searching for — the freedom to see myself and the world unhindered by hatred, doubt, fear, and messed up socio-political brainwashing.
Everyday I get a little closer to my goal, and I am inspired by my friends and family’s ongoing proximity tales.
We may not always achieve every goal, but loving yourself enough to close the gap between you and what you want — despite the obstacles — is how we gain proximity to gifts (people, jobs, love, etc.) we would never reach otherwise.