One day we’ll all look in the mirror and ask ourselves – was it worth it? Was the work you put in all your life to get to where you are worth the struggle? Was the feature presentation worth the inflated price of admission? Can the sacrifices you made truly be justified?
Life is a long road full of twists and turns. And for many of you – myself included – this road has only just begun. So let’s start with a single year and pose a single question: are two weeks of vacation a year worth what you go through for the remaining 50 weeks?
Produce, produce, produce. All my life I've been told I need to produce. I needed to produce good grades in high school so I could get into a good university. I needed to produce a good GPA in university so I could get a good job. Then I needed to continue producing good work at my job so I could get an even better job.
When does it end? It's instilled in our minds that we need to live life on the fast lane and to move forward through life producing at a rapid rate, much like a well-oiled machine. Depressing isn't it? Oh but don't worry, you’ll still get your two weeks of vacation each year.
This year I went to Sri Lanka. It's safe to say that it impacted my life in a monumental way. I was born in Sri Lanka but my family immigrated to Canada when I was the ripe young age of three. Exactly 20 years later, we went back and I soaked up every little thing my motherland had to offer in those two weeks.
It's incredibly unfortunate that a country so beautiful was torn apart due to war. It absolutely breaks my heart, especially after witnessing the gorgeous mountains and crystal clear blue beaches. One word to describe it? Paradise. As a naive kid who grew up in a First World country for most of my life, I was in awe of what Sri Lanka had to offer.
What captivated me most was the lifestyle in the villages. I suppose we consider ourselves lucky to grow up witnessing the modern age of technology. I suppose we consider ourselves lucky to live in nice houses and drive nice cars.
Yet after experiencing life in the villages, I don't feel lucky at all. In fact, I feel deprived. I feel deprived that I didn't get the opportunity to grow up in my own country and experience my birthright. I feel deprived that I didn't get the opportunity to live in a close-knit community where neighbors treated each other like family. We got robbed of that blissful life and we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to succeed here.
We rationalize it by telling ourselves that we're better off living this lifestyle. But really we're not. We spend all our lives trying to fast-track through life just so we can go and vacation on a beach somewhere across the world for two weeks a year. We go to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and to various beaches across the world to escape from reality for a brief period of time.
Yet we could have spent every week of the year relaxing on a beach whenever we wanted to if we were in Sri Lanka. Sure, we might not all have smartphones and high speed internet. But at least we would have had genuine human interaction. We might not have had a lot of things we have right now. But rest assured that those things would have been replaced with something better.
The fact of the matter is we spend the majority of our lives killing ourselves both mentally and physically chasing success. We assume that happiness and success are directly related, as if one cannot exist without the other. My dad spent the last 20 years of his life working hard day in and day out chasing success. Yet I had never seen him happier than when we went “back home”. It's as though he had spent 20 years here just to go back to where he belonged. Quite the poetic tragedy isn't it? Yet this is the reality for many who have emigrated overseas.
My point is that being successful doesn't necessarily entail happiness. Unless your personal successes correlate directly to your happiness - then perhaps it does. But then you have to ask yourself whether your idea of success is in fact your idea. Are the destinations you’re trying to reach of your own choosing? Or is it a manufactured afterthought that has been instilled in your mind?
Look in the mirror today and ask yourself what happiness means to you. And if you're willing to produce all your life… for two weeks of it each year.