Many of us have different opinions and notions about identifying and understanding what it means to be content — to be fully happy with the way our lives may have turned out. While it’s human to want — perhaps even yearn — for something we don’t have, at the end of the day, we must realize that there are people in this world who are far worse off than we are; people who would kill, climb mountains, and swim oceans to be in our shoes. The sad reality is that most of us don’t realize how good we have it, until and unless someone points it out to us, or when we witness it ourselves. Most of us have the tendency to look towards those who seem to have it “better” than us, totally ignoring and undermining our own accomplishments that we’ve worked so hard to achieve. We often compare our lives to others, thinking we are inadequate or that we should be ‘doing more’, ‘seeing more’, ‘getting recognized and appreciated more’, etc. The wish list is endless. And it is this constant comparing to others that ends up bringing down our esteem and energies, making us feel very low and depressed. We often put the blame on others — those to whom we are comparing our lives — when, in reality, it is us — we– who are to blame for eliciting such negative energies and emotions.
I understand that some people just can’t help but compare their lives to those who happen to be far more “successful” than they; and this “success” may take many forms: from a great relationship/marriage to a great career to being financially stable, etc. However, this sort of comparison is really and truly unfair. Why? Because we don’t know what struggles these individuals or people have gone through to achieve that success. We don’t know what obstacles they overcame to finally get the sweet taste of success that they’ve waited so long for. We don’t know anything about these people’s lives in order to resent or envy them. Nothing at all.
I am sure the same goes for our judgment of famous people or celebrities too. We see them on the big screen; we get caught up in their good looks, talent, fame — and we suddenly jump to the conclusion that we ‘hate’ them. We hate them because we wish we had the same things they have; heck, we’d do anything to live their lives for one day. Yet, what we see on the surface is far from reality. While some celebrities have had decent and very privileged lives/upbringings, there are others who weren’t born as ‘privileged’ and had to go through quite a bit of hurdles in order to attain success and contentment. It’s obtuse to judge someone superficially without first understanding their background and the exertions that they, like yourself, have also gone through. Of course, we should never compare people’s struggles as no struggle is better or easier than the other; they all hold equal value, because a struggle is that, a struggle. They are deeply personal and can only truly be understood by those who experience them. All struggles are difficult and takes its toll on a person’s life; some for the better and some, unfortunately, for the worse. And it all depends on the individual and how she or he copes with it. So, rather than resentment, we should praise these brave human beings; we should admire them, seek inspiration, and perhaps try to learn a thing or two from them in this long, difficult journey towards true happiness/contentment.
It’s not always about Luck!
I’ve also noticed that many of us use the word “luck” quite carelessly. In fact, so carelessly that it angers me now each and every time I hear it. We can’t simply use the “luck” card to continuously rationalize why an individual is so ‘accomplished’ in life, because the fact of the matter is that it’s not always about luck. Not necessarily, anyway. It’s unfair to link “luck” to every single success that an individual experiences, because, as I said earlier, we don’t know what sort of life they’ve led; what struggles they’ve endured. I know some of you may be strong believers in the notion of “luck,” and that’s fine as that’s your belief and I am no one to tell you otherwise. However, the fact of the matter is that people who constantly use “luck” to refer to every single accomplishment are simply being lazy, in my humble opinion. Yes, there, I said it. It’s lazy to attribute luck to something, just because you can’t understand it. For example, when someone says, “Gosh, she is so lucky to get into Harvard Law School,” I honestly don’t know what to reply to that, except to tell this person that it wasn’t luck per se, but the fact that this girl studied her ass off, which in turn got her excellent grades to get into one of the top schools in the world. Who knows what this girl went through, prior to her admission to Harvard. Maybe she got out of an abusive relationship the year before; maybe she lost a close family member; maybe she got into a terrible car accident — we don’t know anything about this girl in order to label her ‘lucky’ simply based on what we see and know in the present time. And when we do eventually find out about her past, how silly and obtuse we’d feel to have said — quite simplistically — that this girl is “lucky.” I know some of you will argue and say, “What if she has a great past? What if she comes from a very happy and loving home, etc., don’t you think ‘luck’ has some hand in that?” Well, yes and no. Yes that her supportive and loving parents have always been there for her, encouraged her to do her best (as best as to get into Harvard), and no, luck doesn’t necessarily have to have a hand in this. This girl still worked hard. She had her parents’ love and support (and maybe even money to pay for her tuition). She may be lucky to have great parents, but the fact that she got into Harvard, that was not luck. That was hard work. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that one has to be extremely careful and cautious when attributing the word “luck” to someone. Anyone. Not everything is as peachy or as simplistic as it appears on the surface.
My own personal journey towards fulfillment
I, too, have been told, more often than not, by many close friends, students, colleagues, and professors (my advisor — the darling that she is — in particular), how “lucky” I am, and how I seem to “have it all” and how “life must be so good.” However, while it’s true that life is beautiful and content now, right in this present time, it wasn’t always like this. It was never like this. I wasn’t born with a gold spoon in my mouth. I was known as a ‘rebel’ in school, because I hardly studied and instead took immense joy in disrupting the classroom. I didn’t always know whether I’d even go to university, because I had a cruel teacher, way back when I lived in Saudi Arabia, who told me that I wasn’t “studying material” and that I would end up career-less and a “loser.” That teacher’s words haunted me for the longest time. In fact, so much that when my family and I immigrated to Canada, I vowed to excel in each and everything I did. I began studying my ass off, staying up long nights devouring book after book ,and endlessly practicing calculus problems well into the wee hours of the morning. Sleep became irrelevant. I had one mission in life and one mission only: to seek admission into the top and best school in all of Canada. And I did. With full scholarship. It wasn’t luck then, but hours and hours of endless studying that bore me that beautiful fruit — a fruit, that just a few years ago, seemed impossible just because a teacher blatantly undermined my capabilities. I completed my undergrad (with high distinction), and decided to work for a few years, while keeping in mind that I would go back to school, get my Masters and then my PhD, and then travel, teach, and help women and girls all over the world. I had high dreams/hopes, yes, but back then, nothing seemed impossible anymore. My drive and ambition was blinding me. Marriage didn’t became an option anymore. In fact, marriage was never in the books for me. But, fate had something different in store for me. Very different. And I don’t regret it one single bit.
Today, almost seven years later, I’m married (very happily) with a beautiful kid. I managed to complete my MSc. but I am still working towards the Ph.D (something that I should have completed two years ago). It used to make me sad before — sad that my studies have gotten delayed for so long, but not anymore. I carved this road for myself. I chose to marry. I chose to work full-time for a few years so that I could invest in a house and my husband’s logistics businesses. I chose to delay my studies for a bit so that I could have some financial security before considering grad school. I chose this path, on purpose, because I knew it was the only path that would lead to total and complete self-fulfillment.
At times I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like had I gone to grad school right after undergrad. I would have been drowning in loans (from my undergrad, as grad school is funded, phew!); I’d have no money and nothing at all to fall back on. I’d have no real life work experience (something I am GREATLY grateful for), because it has allowed and opened many more doors and opportunities for me. I probably would have had a Ph.D, and may have been teaching/traveling all over the world, but the question that keeps gnawing at me is this: Would I have been as happy, as fully content, as I am now? Yes? No? Maybe? Perhaps that’s something I would never know. All I know, however, is that the path towards achieving happiness is not an easy one. It’s never an easy one.
So, no, I am not lucky. Luck rarely had a hand in my life journey thus far (I’d actually be deeply insulted if someone told me that I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved so far because of luck). No. Far from it. But what I am is this: grateful. So very grateful. We create our own realities. We travel the road we pave and create for ourselves. And while it may not always go according to plan, the aim is to not get disheartened or discouraged; the aim is to keep going, keep trying to find true contentment (because I am still working towards achieving mine, we all are!).
Besides, you never know, it may just be at the tip of your fingers.🙂