I used to think that I had things all figured out. That I had gamed the system. After all, I was good in school. I got straight A’s all the time. My parents were proud of me. I was the ideal teacher’s pet. And all I did was put my head down and work hard.
On top of that, my extracurriculars were great. I was enrolled in so many different activities - from piano to taek won do to tennis. On weekends, my parents and I would go out to parks and just enjoy the great outdoors. On summer vacations, we would travel to different places. Take road trips across the USA. It was a great life. An ideal life.
I thought I had this life thing all figured out. That everything would be easy from here on out. This feeling increased as I got into Cornell University. It was a hard task to achieve, but I did it. And I felt like everything would be okay from here. No more sorrows. No more tragedies. It would just be absolute bliss.
Obviously, you know that that’s just not possible. There is no such thing as absolute bliss. And my time at Cornell humbled me academically. I was surrounded by people way smarter than I could ever imagine. And the school curriculum in the Engineering school was tough to say the least. Thus, I found myself behind the 8 ball. I found myself struggling academically for the first time in my life. And I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to “figure it out”.
As a result, my confidence suffered. And I felt like I needed to somehow to do more. To work harder. To be better. To strive for bigger things. And after a while, I complete lost track of what exactly it is I was supposed to be striving for. I guess I hit that period in life when I was unsure of who I was and what I wanted to be.
I guess that period of time, in retrospect, helped me put new perspective on life as a whole. It is not ideal. It is not the perfect ending. It is whatever we make of it, regardless of the external circumstances swirling around you. A tornado could be hitting your home. You could lose your job, your relationships, your family, your loved ones. But, it is you who chooses the story you want to tell.
It is you who choose how to perceive and look at these things right before your eyes. What lessons can you learn? How can you build upon it? Will you simply let it hit you and make you stay down? These are all lessons in life. And we are all better off for these lessons.
My time struggling in academics at Cornell helped shape me into a more efficient communicator, speaker, and leader. I got into Toastmasters, which has been an absolute boon for my well-being. And I realized that there were lots of supportive people out there that will build you up and help you succeed. I look at the wealth of friends around me and see them as inspiration.
You can draw inspiration from everyone and anyone. You can see that everyone has something to offer of value. The least person you expect can be a lifesaver to you. You never know. So, it’s important to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Because nobody has everything in life all figured out.
You can look at all the pretty pictures on Facebook and Twitter. You can look at all the happy relationships out there. But, at the end of the day, even those people encounter hardships and struggles. They encounter things that will make them cringe and suffer. That is the human condition. We are not immune to the hardships that life can throw at us. No matter how perfect we seem on the outside.
I just finished Will Smith’s memoir, and even he did not live a life of happiness and fulfillment. He was the #1 movie star in the world back in the early 2000’s, churning out hit after global hit after hit. He was a success in the music, TV, and movie industries. He made it big time and had the girl of his dreams in the palm of his hand.
Yet, even his life disintegrated at a certain point. Even he realized that chasing external happiness was a losing cause. That true happiness and peace comes from within. That we are all beautiful just the way we are. If there’s one thing that comes close to all figuring it out, it’s that. It’s that true peace comes from within us all. It may seem like some generic inspirational quote. But, that seems to be how it is.
We can make lemonade out of lemons wherever we go. We can see the silver lining in everything. The happiness under duress. We can see that life is not perfect, and that’s the way it should be. We should let go of the image of an ideal life in the suburbs, with a perfect partner, two kids, a dog, and a huge backyard. We should let go of these images which are supposed to make us happy and fulfilled.
And we should just be fulfilled in the present moment. In the here and now. Just be satisfied with where you are. You are beautiful just the way everything is. You are more than enough. I don’t care if that’s corny or cheesy. That’s the truth. If anyone has it figured out, it’s that satisfaction comes from within. But, that’s all there is to it. Beyond that, even Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are still searching. Still grasping for something. Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their demons to conquer.
So, it’s important that we approach relationships with empathy and compassion. That we realize that everyone is struggling in some form or fashion. That nobody in this world has it all figured out. And that’s the honest truth (I feel at least). So, approach this imperfect world with a sense of wonder. A sense that everything is fluctuating for better or worse. That we are imperfect beings in an imperfect existence looking forever for the perfect solution.
But, sometimes, we should just let go of that perfect solution and be content with where we are in the present moment. It’s important to just be yourself and be happy enough that that’s enough.