It took me some time before I could actually believe that I was under the spell of a fatal assumption. The assumption that I was invincible, and the assumption that nothing bad could happen to me. In the back of my mind, I knew that bad things happen all the time. People fail all the time. I just couldn’t see how that would ever happen to me. It sounds arrogant and proud, but to be honest I really did not think I would ever have to experience some of these things.
No. I have not failed at anything recently, unless social interactions count. However, I have been placed in a unique situation, academically and socially. I have to sit for my exams later than everyone else, which means that they will know their results before I do. It means I’ll be left behind (if only for a little while).It means that while everyone will be sure of their progress to the next stage, I’ll be left nursing doubts and fears for longer than I expected.
This has opened my eyes to the feelings and emotions that course through someone who has not managed to accomplish their set goals. I also remember that one time when I didn’t get the marks I wanted in a major exam. I remember the disappointment, and I remember the darkness that engulfed my spirit. But the one thing I can’t forget is that I learned more from that one episode of disappointment than I have ever learnt from all my successes.
Over time, the small disappointments that I have experienced have served to make me stronger and more battle hardened. It doesn’t mean that I would go through all that again. But there is something important that changes in you when things do not go according to plan. When your Will turns out not be as powerful as you thought it was, an arrow finds its way into your heart. And it reminds you that you’re still human. Still vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life.
When you’re humbled, when you realize that the world was here first and not the other way round, you get a new lease of life. Every day seems to be a privilege accorded to you. Instead of seeing what is wrong in your life, you start seeing the things that are going right.
Nowadays, when I wake up in the morning, I feel grateful. For having a healthy body. For having slept peacefully. For having clothes on my back and a roof on top of my head. For having food to eat. It troubles me that these things could be snatched from me in an instant. It troubles me that I get to enjoy these things while other people my own age (and younger) get to deal with problems that are larger than life.
Why should that small child in another country have to face the reality of war, while I get to worry about grades and clothes and girls? Why should someone else have to worry about basic health care and getting water while I complain about not having a car, or not getting the smartphone of my dreams?
I won’t brush these questions away. Even if the answers are bound to be too complicated to explain properly. I don’t have any answers.But I am grateful for what I have been given. It might not seem much to some, but it is definitely a lot. And to those to whom much has been given, much will be required.
The small setbacks I have experienced have taught me that I do not have a monopoly on winning. I can lose. There are millions of people smarter than I am. Millions more handsome. I do not have a real claim to enjoy the privileges that are present in my life. This knowledge is truly humbling. And it makes me aware that I have a responsibility to my brothers and sisters who don’t have the privileges that I have.
It would not be just to continue living my life, ignoring the plight of those around me. It would not be fair to think about making money for myself and for my family, without thinking of how to improve some part of life in society. It is my duty. It is your duty. And if we are found wanting, then the resources that we have taken for granted will be given to others, so that they can do what we have failed to do.
Success if a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people to thinking that they are gods among men. Have a healthy respect for failure, disappointment and setbacks. Learn from them, and get past the pain as quickly as you can. Just my two cents.