Feeling passionate in a world of apathy/complacency
I want to tell you a story about someone who will change the world one day, little does she know it.
A lot of people want to change something, we love complaining about things and might even offer up grand solutions to problems. Yet I don’t know many people who actually do something about it and live by their beliefs. Those that do are often marginalised as “drop-outs”, “hippies” or seen as being dogmatic about something.
The person I want to tell you about is called Jessamine and her beliefs started forming while she was at school. At an alarmingly young age she began to disagree with how children were being assessed in the English education system. She disagreed with the curriculum and thought exams were only able to assess a small proportion of the class and revealed very little about the rest. She could concede that it worked for some but found it outrageous that most were expected to conform to these singular interpretations of “intelligence” and “capability”. This image sums up her point:
This view isn’t unique to her, indeed many would agree with it. But most of us don’t do anything about it. Jessamine was bright and curious and could have done very well in her exams which makes what she decided to do even more extraordinary.
She decided to attend every lesson, learn as much as she could from the teachers and class material, but then either refuse to sit the exam or sit it and write what she felt like writing. She told me about a maths exam where she wrote a long story about the ant kingdom (another fascinating subject in itself) and left it at that. In art, she didn’t draw the pictures she was supposed to but instead filled a book with writing about what art meant to her and how it has been used to express ideas.
Needless to say, the A-Level examiners could not see beyond their tick boxes and so she closed doors on herself for the future. She stood her ground, lived out her beliefs and sent shockwaves through the teacher and parent community. She made people question the status quo and inspired others whose individual and unique skills weren’t being counted in exams.
As Jessamine grew up she explored a host of career paths from floristry to health & social care (which she is doing now), working on a building site, cooking, being a nanny, singing and writing music. She accumulated skills and always made enough money to support herself.
For three years she travelled the world, mostly on her own, making new friends and trying to talk to as many people as possible while keeping her heart wide open to new experiences. She explored religion and decided the only way to understand Islam was to live it. She had read the Qur’an and found it hard to reconcile the darker passages with the great people she was meeting. She wanted to understand where these two impressions of Islam could possibly meet so decided to “do” Ramadan. She wanted to know where they got their beliefs from and realised that their values of gratitude, forgiveness, sharing and kindness were all passed down from parents. She observed their rituals and found they had a unifying benefit and made people feel closer to one another.
She lived with a medical student in Geneva for a few months and struggled with a city that has so many shiny masks and just as many dark undercurrents (if you haven’t already, you must read Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho).
Today, she lives in a van and is fighting against thoughtless consumerism in our society. She believes passionately that we would all be happier if we came together and asked ourselves one fundamental question: “What do I want that I don’t have enough of?”. She wants us to ask ourselves why we exist and why we work the way we do. She believes that most people will answer in the same way and that it will be “Time”. She argues for a more sustainable lifestyle where we work less and live more. She believes we can work more efficiently if we filter out the mass of interruptions we deal with every day from adverts to notifications. We are available everywhere and yet hardly ever able to be somewhere fully. She wants us to ask ourselves what we would do if money didn’t exist. She champions governments such as the one in Sweden who have introduced a 6-hour work day, allowing their people to focus on their passions and projects. They have more time to become involved in their communities which is one of the fundamental routes to happiness. She feels sad when she meets people who live to make money without having ambitions beyond that.
In all her chapters in life, she knows that her talent is in making people feel something. She listens with an open mind and doesn’t discriminate amongst old, young, criminals or saints. She writes lyrics and hopes that one day they might touch those who are trapped in unhappiness believing that the most powerful gift she can give them is to make them smile and show them the opposite of what is bad in the world.
She wants to empower us as consumers and make us realise we hold a powerful voting card in our hands whenever we choose to buy something. She hopes we can look after our world instead of abusing our natural resources and creating so much waste. She tells us that we weren’t born to just pay bills and die.
In her words: “If people are doing what they are passionate about they are more likely to be happy – if we are unhappy, we don’t have the capacity to help others because we are consumed with looking after ourselves first”.
Robert Frost wrote in a poem “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”.
Jessamine is one of my little sisters, she is just 24 years old.