Learn to Live


“Go and study!” If you are Tamil, you have probably heard this command many times in your life. You’ve heard it when you were little, you’ve heard it when you were growing up, and there is no doubt that you’ll hear it for many more years to come. There is no dodging these dreaded words.

From the time you learned to read, your parents have been constantly nagging you to further enhance your brain’s capabilities. It’s normal for parents to push a youngster to study for in their minds, studying is the magic path to happiness, success and prosperity.

“Education is the key,” they say. Education is the key to what? Happiness? Love? Success? It’s absurd to think that studying is the sole factor of triumph in our lives. However, it should not be the one and only thing in the minds of young people in today’s society. Life is a learning process, and the learning involved is more than just the school-related learning we have in our lives.

I still remember when I was just a little girl and my parents (as I’m sure is the case with many other parents) wanted me to be the “brightest” 6 year old in my kindergarten class. By the time I reached the tender age of 7, I knew the multiplication tables up to 16! Everyday, I had vigorously memorized those tables. As a result, I was able to mentally calculate when someone asked “Quick! What’s 16×13?” The “someone” was always either my mom or my dad. My parents, with good intentions, thought that was the best way to prepare me for school.

As far as I know, to this day, no one has ever required me to know 16×13 or anything of that sort off the top of my head, nor did they ever want me to. I must not forget to mention that in the long run this great ability to mentally calculate my time-tables instantly has sadly diminished. Now, I’m ashamed to say that I use a little machine called a “calculator” to do my math.

Sure, those tables helped me with my math when I was younger. But the fact is I could still have survived without them. Those times spent in my room doing math and memorizing tables could have been replaced with sweeter memories of playing with Barbies or going to the playground. It’s not that I don’t have those memories. I do… but I want more!

It’s obvious why Tamil parents – perhaps more than others – want their children to put everything else in life after education. Success is everything. Being rich is everything. Having the ability to proudly declare “My son is an engineer” or “My daughter is a doctor” is a dream of any parent. There is nothing wrong with that. However, what they must realize is that success does not depend on how well we can do calculus or algebra. Real success depends on how effectively you can play the game of life.

When we look at society today, we can see that teenagers have more to deal with in life than their education. There are many critical aspects in life that can affect us: peer pressure, drugs, stress, depression etc. Being able to conquer these other aspects is the true achievement. Studies and education must take second place because learning to deal with societal and personal problems must take priority.

Like a road, life is not a straight path to any destination; it has many bumps, curves and potholes. If we ignore all these curves and potholes, we may reach our wanted destination, but only with a struggle. Life is a struggle. We have to stop the misconception that education is the only obstacle that teenagers need to overcome.

I once had a friend who was obsessed with her studies. She didn’t care about spending time with friends or participating in social activities, such as clubs. Instead, she would run home every day after school and do her calculus questions. I once commented on her life, and how it only revolved around school and marks. Her reply was “Once I become a doctor, I’ll start doing fun things.”

This is a girl who wants to succeed in life by focusing on her education. However, this same girl came crying to me many times because she “only” got 94% on her test, quiz etc. She acted like it was the end of the world. Maybe she has high expectations for herself, but I find this appalling and rather selfish. There is more to life than marks, marks and more marks. My friend was crying about her 94% while there are people in this world dying or starving; that’s what I call REAL problems. She was in her own little world, unaware of reality.

This friend of mine, even though she could do her calculus questions perfectly, was unable to survive in the real world. She didn’t know how to handle her emotions, or how to deal with any obstacles that she came across. Her “mark” for real life problem-solving is a big ZERO. She panics over little problems and lacks many social skills necessary in everyday life. Also, it seemed like she lacked “general knowledge”; something that is not taught in the classroom. She has great potential to be a doctor. But if she can’t deal with her problems, stress and emotions, how is she going to make it that far?

Also, if she does become a doctor, does that mean success? No. Success in our lives is not measured by our marks or even by our profession. What we must first ask ourselves is what exactly is the meaning of success? Does it translate to having a respected profession? If so, then why are there so many doctors and dentists committing suicide at alarmingly high rates? Why are even the richest people not satisfied with their lives?

Success in life is not measured by the amount of bills we have in our wallets nor the degrees we earn in university. Real achievement is when we are able to find the true meaning of life: To live it. Sure, studying is necessary. But so are the other things in life. I am not implying that teenagers should forget about their studies and just “hang out and have fun.” Education is an important aspect of life. But having a sense of balance is of higher importance. A teen who gets 80s at school, does community service, enjoys sports, and is able to deal with unexpected problems is more successful than a teen with 100s who many not have any of the other qualities the former student has.

The manner in which a person faces obstacles and deals with stress, emotions, and life-problems, determines the life she will lead and the success that will follow. Being a well-rounded individual will do many wonders for your future. We can learn more useful things about how to survive in this world from our friends, family and real experiences than from a textbook. Calculus question scan prepare us to be engineers. But the truth is it won’t prepare us for life. It’s time to face the real world and the true challenges of life.

– Abi N.

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For an alternative perspective, check out: “Stop Socializing. Start Studying”

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9 thoughts on “Learn to Live

  1. This article is well-intentioned but potentially dangerous. Tamil parents encouraging their children to become doctors and engineers is entirely reasonable and practical.

    Let’s look at a highly successful ethnic community – Jewish-Canadians. Most Jews in Canada arrived in the 40s and 50s (mainly Holocaust survivors). Immigrant Jews were mainly shopkeepers and small business owners. Because Jews emphasize education, their sons and daughters became professionals – doctors and lawyers. In turn, their sons and daughters are now well-represented in the entertainment industry and run Hollywood.

    Let’s look at famous Tamil-Americans. Aziz’s parents were both doctors. So were M. Night’s. So were Mindy Kaling’s. All were able to pursue careers in entertainment because they had wealthy parents bankrolling them.

    As much as kids should be encouraged to “pursue their dreams”, a career in the arts or entertainment is highly risky. For every Aziz, there are 100 broke waiters in LA who’ll never get their lucky break. If you don’t have wealthy parents, life will be a struggle.

    Most Tamil-Canadians don’t come from money. Most of our working-class parents stress education because pursuing medicine or engineering or accounting is a guaranteed ticket to an upper-middle class income. And even it’s no longer a sure thing – a university degree is no longer a meal ticket, and the job market is far more competitive than it was it was a generation or two ago. Tamil kids need to be practical about their choice of university degree.

    In other words, telling a kid not to study too hard and to sit back and enjoy life may be condemning him or her to a life of mediocrity.

  2. SD3 ”
     Perhaps our priveleged kids can be more fanciful and enjoy the fruits of our labour as we can fund their pursuits. But as a predominantly working-class immigrant community our generation needs to be more practical……Nailed it!

  3. Liberalism is killing Tamil society. Don’t study! Don’t get married till the right guy comes even though you are hitting 35, Divorce immediately if things dont work out, swing around and have casual sex. 1960s babe! 1960s babe..Austin powers* background music..

  4. I’m going to have to agree with these commenters and disagree with the writer of this article. My parents did not tell me what career to choose. But they did instil the values in me that I should give 110% to everything I do. In elementary school and highschool, that was primarily through getting good grades. I was expected to not only succeed, but also be the best. It allowed me to develop the mindset that regardless of race and finacial status, I could be just as good if not better than my peers. The content that I learned like algebra and calculus may not be used in what I do today, but it did teach me the value of working hard and putting education first when it needed to be first. And by putting education first, I didn’t have time or allowed myself to be distracted unnecessarily with things that did not matter as much, such as gangs, drugs, and teenage drama. Doing well in school gave me the confidence to pursue whatever career path I wanted to without the fear of failing. University was hard work, but definitely not as difficult as my peers who did not work hard in highschool. 
    Real life lessons can be learned when “real life” starts. But it’s never going to start if you are partying it up every night and consumed by the peer pressures and drama that happens in highschool.

    I am a physician, and contrary to the belief that doctors and dentists have the highest suicide rates, it is actually people of low socioeconomic status and poor education who have the highest rates of suicide, depression, and drug abuse. Please read the stats before you make such statements.

    I am constantly overwhelmed by the number of teenagers who think they can cruise through highschool and university and then get frustrated, depressed, and hopeless that they cannot find a purpose in life or get motivated to finally buckle down and work hard because it’s too late. It’s sick note after sick note, and referral to counselling and then eventually finding some reason to be on a disability income. Rarely have I ever had to write a sick note for an A+ student, unless they truly were medically unfit to write an exam.

    I’m not saying that school should be the only thing in a child or adolescent’s life. But it should definitely take precedence over most things except health and family. And no, not every child should be a doctor or engineer. But every child should have the opportunity to make that decision for his or herself. And if they do not do well in school, they will never have that chance to find out. It is an extremely competitive world out there. Learning to deal with this competition begins in school with grades. A single degree nowadays will barely get you a job that can pay for a house, food and car for your family.

    As an immigrant society, coming to this country without anything but a set of parents who were not afraid to work hard so their children become successful contributing members to the community, the ONLY thing that allowed us to surpass racism and poverty, is education. We should never give the message to our youth that this is not incredibly important or directly related to their future success. And contrary to the statement made by the author, people who do well in school have a higher chance of being well-adjusted and happy individuals because they have a higher chance of getting a job and fulfilling their goals. 

    I am happy to say that mine and my family’s happiness AND success is a direct result of my education and the good grades I got were the stepping stones to this path. It allowed me to have a secure future and  enable to learn the rest of life’s lessons. Education opened the door to encountering these other lessons and I hope the youth today where there are so many distractions to take away focus, don’t forget that.

  5. Kanna JV’s comment is exactly what the writer of the original article is talking about. She is tone deaf to how arrogant she appears and how she is likely putting people off. Anyway Kanna – I’m a physician too, and a Canadian Grad (Mac meds 2011 – go Marauders!), but I don’t go writing 10 page essays on rather innocent articles extolling young Tamils to get out and socialize, misguided though said articles may be.

  6. kitchenaire 
    Classy move, calling out an anonymized commenter with her personal name. Considering you’re a physician, I hope you would have learned a thing or two by now about anonymity.
    The only reason why “educationequalssuccess” even brought up her career is to give credibility to her dismissal of the exaggerated suicide stats about physicians and dentists. Yeah, using numbers would have been the ideal thing to do, but considering she was simply slapping together a 1 page response (I guess that seems like 10 pages to the mac grad though) littered with spelling and grammar errors, that probably wasn’t at the top of her priority list. All physicians would agree, it’s easier to just tell someone you’re an MD when you’re trying to make a medical claim, rather than dig up the associated NEJM article.

  7. Anonymous4141 kitchenaire HAHAHHAA TAMILS TAMILS.. Just because a dog grows in a horse stable doesn’t make it a horse.. 
    Nambungal Naalai Tamil Eelam pirakum! We suck at unity.. hahaha

  8. Anonymous4141 kitchenaire You’re right: it was classless, as was your throwaway insult about Mac. I’m sure that such an attitude will take you far in life, friend

  9. kitchenaire dude kitchenaire, you’ve been exposed. Check your livefyre account. Someone is hacking into anonymous profile.

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