Our whole lives, we have been taught to be ambitious and competitive. Getting accepted into a prestigious university and employment in a high-paying job is essential in life, and is the way to be happy. So far, this is what I have tried to follow for the past 10 years, but is that really how one should live their life? Constantly picking faults, looking at the next best thing, earning the most money, does money really buy happiness?
The summer of 2009, I flew to Delhi, India with my mother to visit my uncles, aunts and my grandfather as they were in shock because one of my aunts had died. A week after we arrived, we headed for a week-long trip to see the rest of Delhi, with our family. As a child, I always thought of India as a developing nation and I envisioned broken streets and bathrooms everywhere. But as I walked into the hotel, I realized that this place was really professional, much like Toronto is, with clean roads, no bathroom stalls on the streets. The only issue I had was with the mosquitoes; they would visit us every night and became a nuisance! The next few days were similarly surprising and fun. The way they made every day an adventure. In the evenings, after dinner, everyone would start up the karaoke machine and sing along in Hindi to it. They would stand together, holding hands and swaying to the music, and before I knew it, all my worries were gone. The days seemed to fly by quickly.
The last night of our trip, we all ate dinner around a big, round table. They all talked about their lives and the hardships they faced. I had known the basics about their past careers as my mother had told me on the way here, but what my grandfather told me, shocked me. He was nowhere near as well-off as I had expected. He explained how many relationships were torn apart because of disputes, divorce and even death. Yet even as my grandfather told me of all his hardships, he smiled like a pug with a face with countless wrinkles, encouraging me to strive for my goals and to value my youth. I couldn’t smile back. How could these people still laugh and sing as I had seen them do for the past few days when their lives were so imperfect? I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to go through all that pain; the idea was simply beyond me. “It is inevitable that life deals you hardships and obstacles”, he explained. “Sometimes they are big and it may seem impossible to overcome them, but you always have to try.” He pointed to his wallet with a picture of my cousin as an example. “There is no way to bring her back”, he told me.
I thought about myself, and how I used to cry over a bad haircut. I remembered the time when I was in grade 7; I had failed a math test, and thought it was the end of the world. The smallest, most meaningless things used to ruin my day. As I looked around the table at all the smiling faces of my uncles and aunts, I began to realize that what grades you get or what university you go to, is all completely irrelevant. Money, popularity, and all our obsessions for things are so meaningless! Nothing in the world could make me happy if I was constantly looking at the next best thing and continuously picking faults. Yet my grandfather had possessed no material wealth, didn’t go to the greatest university, wasn’t the smartest student, but seemed like the happiest person on earth.
The rest of my trip in India passed by in a blur. Before I knew it, I was sitting in an airplane, watching Delhi fall below me, and for some reason, as I thought of my family and all their joy and passion for life, I was reminded of a quote I had heard somewhere. “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” That was when I realized that there would always be problems in our lives, but beside them are also all the good things; they are simply overshadowed. It is just up to us to find them.
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