You got to work for it


RE­CENTLY, I had the bit­ter­sweet task of wish­ing a group of girls at a shel­ter good­bye for good. Ba­si­cally, these girls come from trou­bled homes and I was there to teach them yoga and mind­ful­ness. Hav­ing to say good­bye was dif­fi­cult.

It is al­most like be­ing a par­ent, but par­ents usu­ally have the op­por­tu­nity to ad­vise and wish their chil­dren well even once they have moved out of the fam­ily home. On the other hand, I might never have con­tact with these girls ever again, so what can I say to them to in­spire them to lead full and happy lives?

The first thing I thought of was to be­lieve in them­selves. Be­cause of their back­ground, many of them lack the con­fi­dence that most mil­len­ni­als have. Ob­serv­ing them in class, I could sense some de­ter­mi­na­tion and a flicker of courage. I knew that if these ca­pac­i­ties were flamed, great things would hap­pen for them and for those around them.

Look­ing around, I re­alise not just them, but many peo­ple have big dreams. These dreams some­times come so close to them, but peo­ple give up be­cause of the amount of work in­volved. Some­times all that is needed is just a lit­tle more ef­fort but life gets in the way. So I told the girls that many times noth­ing worth­while falls into your lap just like that. Work for it.

Se­condly, hap­pi­ness does not equal hav­ing loads of money. Many peo­ple think that the more money they have, the hap­pier they will be. Money can buy things that mo­men­tar­ily take your mind off things, and per­haps in that way, make you happy. Your new gad­get, car, clothes and toys might dis­tract you. But if you are un­happy, the un­hap­pi­ness is within. No amount of money can take that away.

So I ex­plained this to the girls. Go­ing in hot pur­suit of money is not in it­self a bad thing. But they need to be clear on why they are chas­ing af­ter cash. Does the quest for big bucks give them a thrill? Or is it be­cause they want a big house, big car, lots of clothes and shoes? If the lat­ter, why? They might want to stop and think if these ma­te­rial things will bring hap­pi­ness?

This was hard to ex­plain to teenagers be­cause me­dia and life gen­er­ally tell us that a big house, big car, plenty of de­signer clothes and shoes bring us hap­pi­ness. So I had to tie that up to the third thing I wanted to say. I told them as we jour­ney through life, we need to also jour­ney within. Hap­pi­ness never comes from out­side and if we are un­happy in­side, no amount of pretty clothes would keep us happy. Yes, we might be happy mo­men­tar­ily, but that would dis­si­pate.

I ex­plained it like how my Eco­nom­ics lec­turer ex­plained the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns. If you had one root beer, you might savour it. When you drink the sec­ond, it might not be as sat­is­fac­tory as the first. And the sat­is­fac­tion di­min­ishes with ev­ery suc­ceed­ing root beer.

Per­haps when they see some­one go­ing af­ter more and more clothes, or more and more shoes, they might not be wrong in con­clud­ing that the per­son in ques­tion is search­ing for some­thing but can­not find it. The rea­son is be­cause that some­thing is buried deep within, a trea­sure as yet undis­cov­ered. This is why the jour­ney in life is a jour­ney within.

So I left the girls with these three things. In hind­sight, I could have told them so much more, but I hope these were enough. I hon­estly don’t know how par­ents do it, but like them, I guess I did my best.

Com­ments: let­ters@the­

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