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"On stage I look exuberant because I feel exuberant. I don't pretend. U2 never pretend." — Bono

Like A Song: When I Look At The World


Like A Song[Ed. note: This is the 103rd in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]

A professor once asked me who my idol was. Without missing a beat, I said Bono -- much to the confusion of that poor professor. Now that I am finishing my undergraduate career, this moment keeps playing in my mind. Bono is my idol. Wanting to be like him has helped me make all kinds of decisions in my life, some good, and some bad. While listening to “When I Look At The World,” I cannot help but think of this. This song explains exactly what is going through my mind as my life slowly changes, and helps guide me in making important life decisions.

So I try to be like you
Try to feel it like you do

I “discovered” U2 in high school and from the moment I did, I fell in love with Bono. I connected with the story of an angry teenager who, with a lot of help from his best friends, was able to turn his passion for music into a career, and eventually used that fame to help people. Something inside me knew that I wanted to make the same impact that Bono did. I wanted to see the world like him.

So, I chose social work as my major, because I knew it was a natural path to helping people. I decided that I wanted to become a social worker for people battling addiction, because they seemed like the ones who needed the most help. I devoted my first two years of college to studying micro social work and focusing on making myself into the best counselor I could be.

At the end of my sophomore year, I started a ONE chapter at my university. I had met someone who worked at ONE during the Innocence + Experience tour. We talked about how Salem State University would be a good spot for a ONE chapter: large, diverse, and in a congressional district with a young congressman who was becoming well known. In the back of my mind, “When I Look At The World” played. What better way to be Bono than working for an organization he helped to start? So, I dove right into ONE, coordinating a campaign during the 2016 election that urged the candidates to support extreme poverty relief efforts. I got to host events, speak to classes, and just generally geek out about ONE. It was amazing.

But without you it's no use
I can't see what you see 
When I look at the world

At the same time, I was becoming less satisfied with my major. Classes that focused on therapy techniques were difficult for me. Every time I practiced a therapy session, it felt forced. I would sit in front of a “client” and my mind would draw a blank in ways to help. I didn’t know what to say or do. This was not the natural fit I was hoping for.

I was frustrated watching my classmates find themselves in these courses while I was getting more and more lost. I began to wonder if social work was even the right fit for me. What if I’d only chosen it to become like my teenage idol? The thought of being trapped in this career made me feel sick to my stomach. Yet, I could not think of anything else I wanted to do. All I knew is that I wanted to help people, to be a Bono-like figure. Angry and confused, I pushed through the first part of my junior year, hoping for some kind of way out.

I can't wait till I'm stronger
I can't wait any longer
To see what you see 
When I look at the world

My way out came in the form of ONE’s Power Summit. Power Summit is a long weekend where ONE volunteers from around the U.S. get together in Washington, D.C. There are sessions on advocacy, talks by those at ONE and other nonprofits, and a day where volunteers go to Capitol Hill and speak to their elected officials. I had the time of my life. I got to meet likeminded people, discuss issues that matter to me, and learn so much about advocacy work. Most important, I realized: I was good at this. Speaking to elected officials came so naturally to me. It was the fit I had been looking for in social work but never found.

When I got home, I spoke to my adviser and we made a plan. I would graduate with my bachelor’s in social work, but focus on macro social work-- social work that focuses on advocacy, which I never knew existed. She set me up with an internship at a local community organizing group that would help sharpen these natural skills. I finally felt like I was where I should be.

Now that I am staring graduation in the face, “When I Look At The World” is becoming my anthem again. I used it to find my major and what I wanted to do with that major. Now, I need it to find my place in this world. I know that whatever I chose, it will be the right thing. That is because I see the world like Bono does: a place full of possibilities to help others.  


(c) @U2/Saunders, 2017