Equations for living in the real world

From my journal dated March 29, 2012 (age 17)

So I clearly suck at keeping up with this journal. However, in my defense I was away the last two weeks in Ecuador for spring break, which was awesome. Nevertheless, I’m always amazed at how quickly my life returns to “normal” after an amazing and eye-opening trip. It happened with Japan, with Vietnam, and now with Ecuador. When I’m away I’m blown away at the hugeness of our world and at the insignificance of my personal problems, especially when they are compared to the much greater struggles of people less fortunate than myself. But back here, I’m once again sucked into my little microcosm or bubble that is my life.

Anyways, so that wasn’t actually the topic I had in mind for this entry. Today in English class, we were discussing the last lines of The Great Gatsby: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms further… And one fine morning – so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (p. 171-172). Ms. T then said that we, as Grade 12s were about to go out into “the real world” where one is constantly fighting the current. And she said that “there are some pretty strong currents out there.” Coincidentally, as she was saying this, Stephanie and Frank were in the computer lab, receiving rejection letters from American universities.

What Ms. T said scared me, it really did. If the future is an uphill battle, all the time, how can it be worth it? I think I’m most afraid of not being strong enough. I mean, I’ve received multiple heart-shattering disappointments, but even then, I’ve been protected. I’ve had my parents, my academic and other successes, and my stable high school life. I’m not ready to fight alone.

So the “real” world is harsh, and from what I can make out, from here in my sheltered bay, there are two key qualities that one needs to succeed, or at least, to fight the current. The first, and the most important, is courage. A person needs courage to not give up when they encounter setbacks (which I understand there are numerous in “the real world”). Courage is also needed to strive for goals and dreams. I do this to an extent, but I rely mostly on my parents to tell me that my goal is worth pursuing; alone it will be harder. Finally, courage is needed to speak up and to stand up for what is right. No explanation required.

The second quality of which I speak is self-control. With too much courage, a person becomes arrogant, so self-control is needed to balance out this equation. Self-control is important mainly for practical purposes; to not squander your money, become a glutton, or procrastinate. Mr. H read us a study which found that over many other qualities such as kindness and intelligence, self-control in a child was the quality the most reflecting of how successful the child would become.

So if you do not wish to drown in the turbulent waters of the real world, I would advise you to get yourself some courage, like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, and practice self control, so to not overindulge. But really, these are simply guesses because I have not yet fought in the “real world”.

Upon reflection, I feel that my formula stated above (courage + self-control) isn’t complete. It is a formula on how to SURVIVE. If it is to be a formula to LIVE, it is missing one thing: COMPASSION. A few years ago, I heard the Dalai Lama speak and I didn’t understand much of what he was saying because his accent, but he emphasized the need for compassion in today’s world. I also read something recently that I’ve been thinking a lot about: that, according to someone, there are only 2 emotions: love and fear. The more I think about it, the more I realize how true that is.

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