What would our education system be like if we taught our children the value of happiness instead of money? What if we let them chase after their dreams of being a dancer, a writer, a sculptor or a photographer? What if we considered these “unconventional” professions equally respectable and important as being a lawyer, a doctor or an engineer? All parents at the end of the day want what is best for their children and so, most of the times, children do feel obligated to fulfil their family’s wishes and follow a path that their parents have laid out for them instead of their own. What if we don’t like that path? How much would we be willing to “deviate” from what has been set out for us to follow and do what we really want to? What are the repercussions of speaking up on our families? More importantly, what are the implications of staying silent? How much do we give up for the sake of others, for the sake of society, reputation, money and other factors? We’re all conforming to what we think is the right way to live without ever stopping to think what the definition of the “right way to live” even is; without pausing to reflect on who came up with these definitions. What if everyone did what they loved to do and excelled at it? What would our society be like then? What would our world be like then?
Much as I hate saying it, our parents and teachers won’t be around forever and at the end of the day, our choices and our decisions will ultimately affect us in the long run. Today, you decide to become something your parents think will benefit you simply because there is a lot of money in it. Twenty years down the line, when they’re not around and you have your own family; you will have everything, financial security, snazzy house and a shiny car and envious eyes following you wherever you go. What you won’t have is contentment; you’ll be too busy maintaining your position at work to take out time to attend your daughter’s netball match or your son’s school play. You won’t have enough time to spend with them during holidays, weekends or festivals because there’s always that presentation, that boardroom meeting or some other thing that will get in your way and result in you losing out on another moment that you could’ve spent with your children who’ll grow up too fast, or your husband/wife or your best friends. And then at the end of it all, what was the point of wasting away that one life you had chasing money? Chasing something that you can’t take with you when you die, that can’t delay death, buy you more time or even rewind the time gone by? All you’ll have on your deathbed is memories, so why not chase after them instead? At least that way, you can die in peace as all your valuable memories come flooding to you in your last moments and leave a smile upon your face.
That day, I was tempted to say a lot to Padma (link to article 2), to somehow stop her or see the error of her ways, to ask all these questions that I’m asking now, to say all these things I’m saying now. I was at the verge of comparing life to a river, a journey, a plane, a car, a building, a horse, a song, a cucumber and every other mad thing it has been compared to in the past to illustrate upon its poignancy. But I didn’t, instead I asked her a question: “What happens if you don’t become a neurosurgeon?” And she frowned, thought hard and sighed exasperatedly, “I wouldn’t know what to do with my life otherwise.” And I said a single thing, which I wished someone had told me when I was her age. Something I wish was taught at school more often, something that I didn’t have to learn through a couple of hard lessons, something as vital as knowing the basics such as the Pythagoras theorem in Maths or facilitated diffusion in Biology. A basic principle required for living life:
“It is nothing to die. But it is frightful to never have lived.”