One of the eternal struggles of humankind is finding happiness, and deciding what it means to us when we find it. At NBGA, we’ve partnered with Converse to examine what it means for us to be happy and to spark progress. The first thing that comes to mind is authenticity and that brought us to where we are today; sharing this story and the candid portraits of the individuals who let us into who they are.
Authenticity, not judging ourselves too harshly for mistakes we make, believing in ourselves and our worth, creates room for love, happiness, and growth. It’s a path of discovery and a journey fraught with the unknown and terrorized by pain and critical self-reflection. Converse has been the canvas of that youthful struggle for individuality and authenticity for the past 100 years and we think now is the time for a new focus: sparking progress. With that progress, we can do and be anything, but most importantly we can be ourselves.
We have to start somewhere and for a lot of people that begins in our youth. Our journey begins with being and feeling different, unrelatable, or weird. It’s having interests that the people around you may not have. It’s wearing things that make you happy but aren’t considered cool. It’s being comfortable in your own skin and in your shoes. Shoes like the bright green, high-top black, scuffed white sneakers we used to wear.
We want everyone to start down a path of self-acceptance and authenticity, but we recognize that many of us that start with us not liking who we are and hiding from who we can be.
Progress often arrives after a struggle. It’s a bit cliche but in order to grow a plant must burst through the darkness, the cold, damp soil, and into the light. When we run from who we are or allow society and outdated traditions and norms to dictate what we believe and how we live our lives we stall progress and stifle our room to grow.
Society gives us specific rules for how we can or cannot express ourselves. Many people are uncomfortable with what they think is different. They shun things and people that have different views, different features, and different backgrounds. They close their ears and squeeze their eyes closed so they don’t have to confront the change that is right in front of them. We have to open our eyes, our ears, and hearts to acceptance of ourselves so we can accept others.
After acceptance comes authenticity in our words, our actions and how we relate to one another. Authenticity arrives with love and community and when all of that is wrapped up in a self-reflective bow we have progress. Progress is vital to our survival on this planet. Progress shapes nations, identities, and cultures. Progress births new ideas, solutions, and understandings of the world around us. Progress changes lives.
We can solve problems. We can shape the world into a brighter place for all of those that come after us. We can create new opportunities and new levels of growth. We can cultivate and nourish our love for the earth and one another. Progress is the bedfellow of invention, community, and resource. Progress is game-changing. Progress is everything.