Dare to disturb the universe


Emma Tanner, News Editor

It was a quote I first heard in my junior year English class. English was fourth period. I was having the usual bleary-eyed, “I wish I could go home” kind of day. High school, amirite?

My teacher had assigned us to read T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I was never much of a poetry person, as my only experience was with Rupi Kaur-adjacent Instagram poetry. However, Eliot’s work was somehow relatable to me. The poem was written in 1915 and I — in 2019 — related to it. 

Søren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher, said that “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

“The Love Song” deals with themes of anxiety, indecision, loneliness and isolation. Prufrock is almost suffocated by the myriad of choices he faces. He does not want to do something that could be presumed as wrong, but he has the choice to. 

I am a chronically bad decision maker. Ask anyone in my life, they will agree with you. I also hate having to make choices. Being an anxious teenager, I saw a lot of myself through the title character. 

Three weeks ago someone asked me what my favorite quote was and I replied with my go-to from 11th grade English. When asked what it meant to me, I kind of blanked. It obviously did mean something, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it really did mean. What caused me to have such an undeniable draw to it?

Maybe it was where I heard it. English was my favorite subject and the teacher was a mentor to me. I was the one kid who always lingered after class to further discuss whatever we had read. It was nerdy, but I loved it. She was one of the few people who noticed my writing and praised it. Without her, I probably never would have shared my work with the world. 

Her explanation was that “disturbing the universe” is doing something outside of what’s expected of us. I’m not sure what my initial interpretation of it was — it is completely lost somewhere between 2019 and now — but I usually just spouted out something similar to what my teacher would say. 

I never really had to consider what the meaning was to me until I was asked some three weeks ago. 

When I thought about it, I realized that disturbing the universe was something as small as changing your route to class. The smallest, insignificant changes in your life can disturb what the universe itself had planned for you. Similarly to Prufrock, I think that one action can affect the course of your life. Like a butterfly effect of sorts.

Do I take Pine Street instead of Wood Avenue to get to class? That is disturbing the universe. Getting Chinese food for lunch instead of a sandwich is disturbing the universe.

I like to believe my actions mean something. It doesn’t have to be a negative action or result in something horrible. That’s where Prufrock and I differ. Perhaps one insignificant action can lead me to the best possible thing or person in my life. 

A booth at SOAR caught my eye and a year later I am news editor. I have changed my life’s path completely because of the tiniest thing. I definitely don’t think that is for the worst. I find myself happier now than I was three months ago because of a series of small events that culminated into an ending. Was it something I wanted at the time? No, but I would not change a single thing looking back.

I have come to terms with the fact that I undeniably and consciously will change things around me. 

So, do you dare to disturb the universe?