Wesely Mikiska, a student studying sustainability development with Professor Courtney Baines at Appalachian State University, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "Why My Dad's Going Green," by Kate Sheppard. He is a Powerful Voice winner of our Fall 2011 writing competition.
Writing Prompt: Has anyone close to you—a friend or family member—chosen to distance themselves from you or sever the relationship because of what you believe? What was the issue? How did you feel? Were you able to resolve it?
Reasoning With My Better Half
by Wesely Mikiska
Finding the words to articulate love can be incredibly difficult compared to how easy it can be to find the words to fight. After reading Kate Sheppard’s article, “Why My Dad’s Going Green,” about her relationship with her father becoming stronger through belief and love in each other, I looked into my own life to see where my beliefs and relationships rest. My family is spread across the globe with oceans and continents between us. The one relationship in my life that I find to be the most challenging and rewarding is with my wife.
My wife is one of the only people I know who can take anything in this world head on with stern confidence. When I look back over the eight years we have spent together, there were only a couple of times when neither of us would give in. Standing strong behind your values is very admirable, but compromise and compassion are the only things that actually make a marriage work.
Asking my wife to change her obsessive shopping habits was definitely dangerous ground. I would not recommend starting the same argument with your wife unless you have lots of time and patience—and, even then, proceed with caution. We were living in Tucson in 2004. We both had good jobs; she was working as a dental assistant, and I was working for my Uncle Star’s masonry crew. I would come home from work covered in concrete dust and dried sweat; she would come home with a big smile and shopping bags. She was the type of person who wanted something and got it. No questions asked.
One day I looked around at the accumulation of stuff, and all I could see was “made in China,” “made in Taiwan,” and “made in Qatar.” I could not take it anymore. I finally confronted her with intense irritation over her wasteful spending on cheap foreign-made doodads. We spent several months arguing over meaningless material objects when finally a window of compromise opened. We watched a documentary called, “Mardi Gras Made in China,” which sheds light on the slave-like working conditions in Chinese factories. Seeing kids earn 10 cents an hour to make beads for Americans to throw on the street during a party opened my wife's eyes to the impact her spending had on the rest of the world. We resolved our bickering by agreeing to make more informed and conscious decisions when we spend our money. We found that contributing to corporate slave labor was something we simply could not support.
With our newly transformed shopping habits, the next challenge to our relationship was television. My beliefs about television came from my mother. We never had television growing up because my mom saw it as a waste of time and ambition. She said it would make us lazy and fill our heads with nonsense. Now I am 27 years old. My wife and I have satellite television and those beliefs from childhood are reaffirmed almost every day. My wife, on the other hand, uses television as a way to unwind at the end of a hard day. I know how hard she works, and how much she deserves her time to relax. However, I’ve found that reality shows and entertainment news attach to the brain like leeches. They suck the creative blood out of society and replace it with distracting psychological agendas. I tried to sway my wife with my beliefs that the media is trying to tame her outlook and keep her mesmerized with meaningless cliffhangers. But do not forget how strong she is! An all-out remote control warfare ensued. Finding a compromise was hard, but we each made sacrifices and listened to each other. Now we unwind by talking and laughing.
Sharing this world with love, compassion, and compromise is the only way to truly develop relationships and make sustainable changes. Whether you are an environmentalist battling a Republican farmer, or a husband and wife struggling through the day-to-day, nothing is as powerful as growing and learning from somebody you genuinely believe in. Finding and working through these connections makes the world worth fighting for—even if my wife tries to make me give up smoking.
Wes Mikiska, a junior at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, is pursuing a major in Appropriate Technology. Wes loves spending days on the Watauga River with his wife Hailey, and three dogs. He has a passion for wildlife, and dreams of someday managing a wildlife preservation from a zero-energy outpost.
Read author Kate Sheppard's response to the winning essayists of the Fall 2011 National Student Writing Competition. Kate covers energy and environmental politics from Washington, D.C. She currently writes for Mother Jones and was previously the political reporter for Grist.