I wanted to change the world.
What Have I Done.
I can’t even bear to look out the window anymore these days. The miserably uniform streets below me are never what I want to see. Miserably uniform. Not long ago, I would have described them completely differently, as tidy, neat, perfect. I used to look out the window and smile, my heart filled with pride at the world I created. This is why my curtains are drawn, despite the hot summer afternoon. I hear birds singing, and I wish I could open my window to a more promising view.
I sit in my window seat, my favourite spot in my house for many years. But now I sit here not because I enjoy it, but rather because it’s routine- what I’m used to doing. On the table beside me sits a cold, half-drunk cup of tea; and a thick, green covered notebook.
My old diary.
I pick it up and let it fall open at random, to an entry from when I was sixteen.
Look at the world! It’s so full of so much wrong! It’s full of so much suffering and pain, so much war and destruction, discrimination and corruption, poverty, hunger, greed, depression, lies, danger... okay, I’d go on forever. The world is so broken! It’s not right! It can’t be meant to be like this! THE WORLD NEEDS TO CHANGE!!! It can’t stay like this any longer, I can’t handle it! I wish I could change the world...
Vivid memories come rushing back to me of the broken, disturbed teenager I was, writing these words. I flick through a few pages, and I find this:
In my mind, I can just see the world the way it should be. Everyone as equal, happily living in peaceful harmony with each other and nature. They all have everything they need, and all are content. There is no poverty, or war, or crime, and no one is harming the environment. Surely this is possible. In fact, more than that, surely it’s meant to be. Seriously, the world can’t be meant to be the way it is right now. People say world peace is impossible, just because it hasn’t happened... yet. But it will. I AM going to achieve it. I AM going to save the world.
So this is how it all started... the beginnings were so innocent. Absentmindedly I flick through the pages, until I come to the following entry, written many years later:
I’m doing it! I can’t believe it’s happening! My dream is finally beginning to come true! I knew it was possible... I’m changing the world! Yes, really! Today I was elected president, and today I will finally begin to make the world right. It’s the beginning of a new age!
Okay, I should stop here. Because this was when it started getting... not good. But somehow, I can’t stop reading. I keep flicking through the pages.
Everything is going so well... what a transformation! Everyone knows about the very strict punishments for committing any kind of crime, or harming the environment in any way. But it’s not good enough... I have succeeded greatly, but the peace is only in one country. The rest of the world is still broken. It’s not enough just to be the leader of one country. I need to be the leader of the world. That’s the only way I can really succeed in saving it.
My thoughts. These were my thoughts? I can’t handle this anymore. But I can’t help but keep reading. A few pages later:
YES!!! I managed to get promoted to president of the world. Now I’m finally going to really succeed. I’m going to save the world, not just the country!
I shake my head at how I managed to manipulate things to make this able to happen. I turn the page again. Then again. Then again.
This morning I looked out the window to see a brilliant blue sky, and the sun smiling down on the rooftops of the city. I smiled, and my heart swelled with pride at the world I created. The broken world of my youth, the world filled with wrong, the world that needed to change, is no more. The world I see out my window is a world where everyone is equal, happily living in peaceful harmony with each other and with nature. There is no poverty, or crime, or war, and no one ever harms the environment. I sighed, my heart filled with content. I have achieved my life goal, and what everyone deemed impossible. I saved the world.
I begin to feel sick. Such arrogance and self indulgence! And I wasn’t even aware of it. Something else I wasn’t aware of, was that everyone else didn’t feel the same way I did. I keep flicking through... I’m very close to the end now... I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I can’t seem to stop myself.
Tyrant? Me, a tyrant? How could it possibly be? Today a huge protest was brought to my window. There was lots of shouting about tyranny, and “give us freedom.” These people live in a perfect world. Why aren’t they happy? Do they need conflict? If I relax the rules even slightly, than the world will surely be plunged back into chaos again! All my hard work would be for nothing! I’m not going to listen to them.
Now, I laugh bitterly at my anger. I was pathetic, and so caught up in my own self pleasure that I didn’t think about anyone else. And what I did after that was even worse. I turn the page and see an entry where I’m gloating about it.
I have a solution! They’re all going to prison. Everyone who protested. We cannot have such dangerous people free. The world is saved for the second time! These people really should be thanking me. I still cannot believe what they did. Well, they will pay... thank goodness.
Only after everyone was in prison did I realise that everyone in the country had protested. That meant, of course, that I had imprisoned everyone in the country. And since I wanted people who broke the rules to really suffer, the prison conditions were terrible even for a prison, and the prisoners were tortured and treated cruelly.
I look at the last page of my diary. The words written there were from the day when I finally realised that what I had done was wrong. I thought about people’s desire for conflict, and wondered if world peace is even possible. I began to realise that my actions may actually have been out of selfishness rather than genuine concern for the world... but none of these thoughts are on the page, because it was too painful for me to write them down. There is only one sentence in the middle of the page:
Oh god... what have I done?
Suddenly, it’s all too much for me. I feel a prickling behind my eyes- I try to blink it away, but it’s too late. The tears well up in my eyes and fall onto the page. All the while, the same thought plays over and over in my mind: What is this. I never cry.
I decide I’d better compose myself. Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, I look up and see it’s beginning to get dark. I happen to see the calendar on the wall opposite me, on the month December, with a picture of a pink sunset over the ocean.
My eyes move to the square with the number 31 in it- today’s date. I’m suddenly reminded it’s New Year’s Eve.
“That’s right, New Year’s Eve. The time for a fresh start. Isn’t that wonderful?”
Startled, I glance around the room but can’t see anyone. I must have imagined it, I think to myself, as I adjust my position on the window seat. But then the voice speaks again. It’s a calm, soothing kind of voice, deep and smooth, but it also seems to have a more ethereal, almost transparent quality to it.
“And this New Year’s Eve will be particularly special. Because I have come to bring you a gift in honour of the new year.”
A gift? I’m surprised. I want to tell the voice that it’s judgement is wrong, that I don’t deserve a gift, but I can’t find my own voice.
“I give you the chance to do one thing over- to turn it all around.”
My heart gives a leap of joy in my chest. This is too good to be true! And, of course, I know exactly what I’m going to choose.
“But only one thing... so choose wisely...”
One thing? I doubt everything I did counts as one thing. I wish more than anything that I hadn’t changed the world the way I did. But where exactly did it all start? At what point could I have turned back?
“Name it now...”
What have I done?
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