Not having to worry about washing hands. At home, we are used to the germs that surround us so we don’t have to wash and disinfect our hands throughout the day. In exotic locations however, even the most common germs can cause us to be sick.
Not having to think on the road. In Ireland, the traffic is predictable and it’s easy to be a pedestrian or driver. In India, rules of the road are constantly broken and even crossing at lights can be dangerous.
Having clean tap water. Rinsing our mouths with water after we brush our teeth is something we take for granted. It’s handy to not have to use a water bottle for that.
Modern education system. After we spent three weeks teaching in an orphanage, a young boy told us that he appreciates that we didn’t beat him.
Being born with a greater freedom to do anything. In India, the class system is strong. How people are treated often depends on the wealth of the family. This is especially true in schools where the poorer children are often bullied.
After a few days in India, we decided to see the coastal area of Mumbai. On our way there, we walked through a very high class area. Entire 10-storey apartment blocks were owned by individuals with tens of luxury cars around them. As we got closer to the coast this scenery changed. The homes of millionaires and billionaires were replaced by slums. Slums with dirt roads and houses made from corrugated iron. It was raining heavily since it was the middle of the monsoon – the rainy season. As I was walking through the slum, at one point on my left there was little courtyard and in it about ten young boys playing football. Despite the heavy rain and a life in what we would call appalling conditions, they had big smiles on their faces. They were happy.
This was a breakthrough moment for me. I heard many times in my life that all I need is myself to be happy but never before has it been so clear to me.
Living in a materialistic world, we think that we need favorable conditions in the outside world in order to be happy. You often hear people say “Once I get a new phone, I will be happy” or “Once I get my dream job, I will be happy”. The truth is different. If you are not happy now, you will not be happy when you add a phone to your life or change your job or make any other external change.
Unhappiness is having a habit of not appreciating what you have and focusing on what you don’t have. The only way to be happy is getting rid of that bad habit. One of the best ways of doing that is appreciation. Sit down once a day and appreciate how good your life is, thank for your family, friends, health, intelligence, life experiences. This will take you one step closer to being happy.
There is over one thousand two hundred million people living in India. The city I stayed in is alone a home to four times more people than the country I live in, Ireland. This sheer number of people means that the life of a single person is quite insignificant relative to the society as a whole. The same applies to every country. Whether you succeed or not doesn’t matter. Whether you are happy or not doesn’t matter. The society will survive either way, you’re just one of many. Stalin understood this perfectly. Sending millions of individuals into certain death was not a problem for him because he knew that in 20 years time, the current generation of dead young men will be replaced by a new generation of living young men.
This truth has two implications.
First. Noone is responsible for your life so you have to be. This is empowering. Take action because noone is going to take it for you. Realise that the world doesn’t owe you anything.
Second. It doesn’t really matter what you do so you can do what you want to do. Find your passion and then follow it. Lead a life full of meaning because this is what will make you happy.
The three weeks I spent in India were freeing.
When we are in our comfortable homes, most of us are so attached to the things around us, material objects, lifestyle, people, that it seems we cannot live without these things. This attachment ultimately leads to dependency. We try to protect our comfortable lives to the point where we do and say things against ourselves and our innermost realisations, this ends up harming us. A popular example of this is pleasing other people in order to continue receiving approval from them.
The three weeks in a different world had shown me that I don’t need to be in my comfort zone, clinging onto the things around me. I can thrive and be happy regardless of the outside world. As a human being, I can adapt to any situation outside of my comfort zone and through that, grow.