Positively Speaking: Responsibility

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By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of man named Toby Moore
Toby Moore

You could be hurting, and your family could be in trouble. Every day feels like a grind; you can’t make it from one day to the next. You may have addictions, people disrespect you, and you have little help. Inflation seems spiraling out of control, and they say World War III is upon us. There appears to be chaos everywhere, especially in our minds.

We’ve been lucky to live in a primarily stable society for as long as most of us have been alive. When things become unstable and uncertain, we become stressed out, depressed and worried. It can rob your sense of purpose and meaning.

It makes you want to give up and sit in a dark room and hide. You may have moments where you scream and cry, thrashing about as if doing so will make it all go away.

You can run away, go to the bar, watch television, and pursue any pleasure you can think of in the hopes it will go away. You can pursue happiness in all its forms, but still, life is waiting.

From the moment we are born, we are in a constant state of change. None of us will stay the same, and none will get out of life alive. What will we become? What is the meaning of it all? What’s the point?

It’s odd. For most of my life, I’ve pursued happiness, and although that was the goal, it didn’t always bring joy. While being a professional actor, I didn’t have a job for many years. All I did was go to the gym, eat nice dinners, go to clubs, hang out with friends, audition, take acting classes and travel. 

It was fun in a lot of ways, and also, it felt empty at times. I was too irresponsible to be able to handle it properly. I dreaded getting a job; I dreaded responsibility because I saw it as something that wouldn’t bring any fulfillment.

Then one day, a stray cat showed up at my door. She begged for food, and I decided to feed her. After a few weeks, she started coming into my apartment, and I soon discovered I was a cat owner! I was responsible for another life. I gave her the best food; I took her to the vet and was concerned for her every need. It brought me so much fulfillment. That was just the beginning of my journey toward responsibility.

In a famous online lecture, rock star psychologist Jordan Peterson says, “You need a sustaining meaning; where do you find that? You generally find that in responsibility to yourself and other people.”

What is the goal of life? “To be the strongest person at your father’s funeral.”

I don’t think he means that you should seek to be the strongest person at the funeral so you can feel better than everyone else, but because you can become a beacon of hope, someone to rely on, and an example to others.

I was not the most responsible person at my father’s funeral, not by a long shot; My father had some fantastic friends.

Within hours of his death, I found myself engulfed in responsibility. It was new and stressful; since then, I don’t get much sleep, and I’m constantly on the move. I’m helping to run two businesses, writing this column, taking care of family members who need my help, and working a full-time job that I love. Oddly, or not so oddly, I feel fulfilled.

I didn’t find fulfillment in pleasure; I found it in responsibility, just as Dr. Peterson says.

With all of life’s problems, it’s easy to become depressed and turn away from things we know we ought to do. Sometimes it feels like burying your head in the sand, deliberately ignoring the reality of the situation, and pretending the problem doesn’t exist is the best course of action.

On the contrary, personal responsibility and accountability are the building blocks for a meaningful and fulfilling life.

By taking ownership of our life and actively working to improve our circumstances and others, we can create a sense of purpose and direction and contribute to the well-being of our communities.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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