When I Have, When I Am

calm, quiet night

I was listening to a special sharing by a teacher during afternoon assembly today as part of a whole series of talks on interesting stories about life. He looked very ordinary when he was getting up on stage, almost shy as he grabbed for the microphone but the moment he started to speak, it became clear he was a charismatic character and he spoke in a sincere manner with a natural sense of humour. He was funny at the right moments, not excessive but enough to keep the audience captivated. His easy and honest demeanour placed the audience ourselves at ease and that was a huge plus point; a usually lethargic crowd battling the lull hour before lunch break was attentive and highly interested today.

He segmented his sharing into 3 major stories about his National Service days served in the Military Police (very rare, we don’t hear much of them at all) – the first being a story about different walks and phases of life of different people, the second on love, soulmates and what they all mean, and the last was about the deference of happiness. Very engaging stuff he’s got there, and the lessons derived from each were deep, insightful and potentially applicable to our lives.

The first story of his was to convey the idea that everyone is in a different phase of life, face different challenges, relate differently to things; in short, it was to say everyone has their story to tell and we should never judge, dismiss or condemn anyone for what we see as flaws or what we deem as ‘bad’ in them. It is too shallow to do so without knowing the struggles that others are going through, and how life is not as smooth flowing as we would like to consider it to be.

The second was about love, about the concept of soulmates. It was a sad little love tale he told, about a couple torn apart by parents, religion and society. He showed us an endearing picture of him and his wife, and related his love story to us. Heartwarming indeed, but the message really was that sometimes we use the term ‘soulmate’ too loosely. It is of course easy to call ourselves someone’s soulmate or refer to someone as our soulmate, but what he offered in his sharing was that this title or status was something to be earned for the other person as well as for ourselves. That we need to prove to ourselves more than the other person that we really are qualified to be deemed the soulmate of the other person.

He did save the best for last. The last story was entitled, ‘Fear of Happiness’. It was a long chase story but to cut it short, it was all about the continuous deference of happiness. I loved the way he weaved the idea in, as well as his thoughts about it and how he chose to relate it to us at our level. I do hereby give this teacher a round of applause for his inspirational words and this has to go down as one of the best sharings I have heard in recent times. I do intend to thank him in person someday soon, and have a further few words with him. However, I think for now I would like to expound on this in my own way because I can suitably relate to it.

What he was trying to share with us was that too many people these days defer their happiness – that is delay happiness to another point in the future. Now now, you will probably find yourself guilty of saying or thinking this: I’ll be happy when I … / I’ll be happy when I am … . Do you find this statement / idea familiar now? Yes, we tend to regard current unhappiness as temporary and associate happiness as belonging to achieving something or belonging to another phase or time in life that is not now. We develop a preconceived notion and image of what happiness is, and that it is something within our grasp in the near future but not necessary now. We idealize that there is happiness after the current struggle, that to reach that happiness it is almost necessary to go through a bad patch of unhappiness.

That isn’t true. There’s no better time to be happy than now, because the next moment in time does not yet exist. It’s like saying you’ll stop to smell the flowers after you cross a certain checkpoint but yet push this pleasure to the next checkpoint after clearing that certain checkpoint; it is likely that you would one day run out of checkpoints to surpass and find yourself never having had the chance to smell the flowers. Maybe these milestones are getting out of school, landing your first job, getting out of your country on to somewhere better, getting married, having a stable career.. and then before you realize it, you might already be sitting on a bench at eighty years old wondering where your time to be happy went and you look back thinking gosh, why did I push my happiness back endlessly?

There’s no one more worthy in your life to be happy than you, and no time better to be happy than now. Why defer happiness to another time when you achieve something, or become someone?

Why not be happy because you have, and because you are?

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