As human beings, we all have a strong desire to feel important to the world around us. The intense need to feel like we matter has a strong hold on our lives. If that is positive or negative … well, that is up to you.
The feeling of loneliness, in a world that gives us the freedom to distinguish who we are, is the most damaging pain to endure. This can cause a person to go to any lengths to try and be noticed, even if those are harmful or self-destructive lengths. After all, it is better to get negative recognition than to feel worthless. This need to get attention can cause one to act out to the point of no return—take the recent massacre in Oregon, for example. That person needed to matter, he needed to be known, at any cost, and his only way to get attention was through an act of violence. This is how he chose to “matter”.
Our society is very individualistic, but yet the need to matter is in us all. The consequences of not feeling like we matter can be very grave. I used to feel this way as well. However, once I stepped out of my own world and looked at my life, I realized how much I do matter to my family, peers, neighbors, employer, and lover – both positively and negatively. I have let many down by being incarcerated and making poor choices.
I was unable to fulfill my position at work because I came to jail, which affected both the students and teachers where I work. I was unable to finish my summer college courses. I was unable to live on life’s terms. I picked up a drink and I drove drunk, harming other people and putting others’ lives in danger. I could have died or killed someone that day. I see how putting alcohol first affected my behaviors and morals, self-esteem, goals, and achievements. Alcohol was my key to numb my pain. It was my escape, and it was all that mattered.
I have lost trust with people that matter most to me. I have affected my wide social web. I have realized how fortunate I am to have a second chance and see that my choices in life do matter—not just to me, but also to those around me.
Looking back at the people I’ve helped stay sober – who are still fighting alcoholism daily – I realize that I have mattered in their lives too, because I helped keep them in programs even when their will was failing. When I see these people they acknowledge my efforts and tell me how much I have made a differences in their lives. They tell me they don’t know where they would be if I hadn’t been there to support them in their recovery. This shows me that mattering as a person just isn’t for oneself—it is for society. Our role in society as human beings matters. We all matter, even when we don’t feel like we do.
Being important to each other cannot be defined in a paragraph. To matter to each other is to live. It is to be human, to follow your path, to make your decisions, and understand how you affect the world around you. Being important is so much more than a word or a description. It defines all human beings and all we stand for. It is the distinction of our existence and how we choose to live on earth. You can choose to be important to yourself; you can decide how your life will be, and how you want to be affected by the way you matter to the world.
This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute.