Hear the word rebellion and you may think of protests, hunger strikes, or other forms of activism. Maybe even teenage angst or civil disobedience. But does rebellion have to fall under such a limited scope or definition? Could it not be extended to any act that challenges the status quo?

Rebellion can be good, righteous, and doesn’t have to be relegated to the young. In the not so distant past, women couldn’t vote, people of color couldn’t use the same water fountains, and any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality was universally condemned. Can you imagine where we’d be if no one rebelled? It’s necessary for change and progress in a world where we don’t always agree what progress is. The truth is that opportunities for positive rebellion exist every day.

Rebellion can be as simple as speaking up when a woman is catcalled. Your words may get the offender to think about their behavior or at the least make it more socially unacceptable.

Rebellion can be having the patience to consider alternative viewpoints and make an effort to understand them. Because perhaps there is something you can appreciate in their arguments or the act of listening will encourage them to hear your side, too.

"Make courageous choices. Take bigger risks." - Dick Costolo

It can be voting for a candidate that may not slash your taxes, but has a chance at helping those less fortunate. It can be doing more research into an issue beyond the first few Google results. These are small acts that may seem trivial, but it’s the little things that build momentum. Everyday actions serve as examples that give others the confidence to make contributions of their own.

The difficult part is to not become overwhelmed. There are a million causes worthy of our attention and that overload can lead to paralysis. But remember that you aren’t alone and as bad as it may look out there in the world, most people are inherently good. Don’t take the easy way out and remain hopeless or cynical. We need you.

Your challenge is to choose one issue you are stoked to throw your energy behind. How might you rebel? Pair up with a friend and ask them to hold you accountable. You’ll be more likely to stick with it.

It’s not a quick fix and it may not be sexy, but the smallest acts of rebellion can and will seed change.


Kiran Umapathy is a writer living in San Francisco. He lives for snail mail, mixtapes, and cruising the California coastline.

Love to write?

Every month we select at few writers to help us explore what it means to live a life of reflection and intention. Reach out to Helen, our editor at Helen.W@holstee.com to learn more

Holstee explores what it means to live a life of intention and reflection through art, words, and action. Sign up for the Holstee Subscription and join our growing community today!

Learn More

Recent Articles

In The Studio (Again) With Jennifer Lioy

A conversation with April's featured artist.

The Compassionate New Yorker

How one random act of kindness can inspire others to do the same.

Let Me Be: A Note To Self

For the times you need permission, encouragement, and compassion (from yourself).