Life is a race. That is an unquestionable fact that has been a part of the very evolution of our species. Survival of the fittest. Or, should I say, survival of the fastest.
As a child, I absolutely loved the idea of races. When my family would travel long-distances by road, it was always my father in the driver’s seat, my mother in the shotgun, with my little sister and I in the back singing at the top of our voices without a care in the world. But as night fell and the long rows of yellow lights would light up on the highways, our impromptu concerts would give way to something more exciting – the thrilling race of being the first vehicle on the whole highway!
We would hang onto the backs of our parents’ seats, peering over their shoulders at the gleaming headlights of other vehicles on the highway and urge our father to overtake the vehicles ahead of us. We would crow with delight every time we left our competitors behind in the inky darkness of the night and groan with frustration when another vehicle cut in from a side road into the highway ahead of us. And when a vehicle would cut in from behind and move ahead of us, our anger knew no bounds! We were quite the fierce little competitors!
Our goal – to be the first car on the whole road with aaaaall the other vehicles behind us.
As a little girl, I truly believed that such a thing was possible. And why shouldn’t I have believed that? Isn’t that what we are taught; that if we truly want something and we work hard enough for it, we can get it!
As inspiring as that sounds, it is not always true.
If I had pursued my childhood goal to be the first car on the whole road, I would have found its fatal flaw very quickly – there is more than one road. And they are all interconnected.
Life is just like that.
You might want to be the first car on the whole road, but no matter what you do, there will always be some in front of you and there will always be some behind you. There will be cars which swerve off the road unexpectedly leaving the road ahead of you clear and there will be cars which suddenly cut into the road ahead of you. You will overtake many cars and many of them will overtake you. You will engage in a fierce battle of speed with some, and will probably definitely gloat with pride if and when you overtake them. And some will pull ahead of you and move forward so fast that you lose sight of them.
And the thing that makes it all okay? Realizing that every single vehicle on the damn road has a different destination. There is virtually no competition at all between the cars then! How can you compete with someone who doesn’t want the same thing as you? How can you race against someone who is driving on a different track?
This undue blind importance placed on competition is what has created this ‘rat-race’ phenomena of life. We are all given pre-decided ‘goals of success’ and are asked to run ourselves weary in pursuit of them, without even seriously considering what we are running towards. This mass instruction of people towards certain specific destinations (usually career choices) is causing a lot of traffic on those roads, thus resulting in a lot of frustration (and unemployment) for those people. This is very destructive to a person’s personality and mental health.
Also, it is true that competition is necessary to help push yourself forward and move closer to your goals. You overtook an annoyingly fast car that was always in front of you no matter how fast you went and now you want to show that car who’s boss? You wanna celebrate? Go ahead! Pop some champagne, do a happy dance, stick your tongue out at that car and boo at it as you drive ahead! It might not look too good, but it sure as hell will feel damn good! That is enjoyable competition.
But wanting to be the first car on the whole highway with everybody else behind you? That is dangerous.
Every car has a different destination – a different home to get to. Similarly, no two people have the same goals in life. Similar goals? Yes. But same goals? No.
In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any two people who can agree on everything. Our experiences and memories, principles and home-schooled values, our beliefs, our religion, our culture and even the people that surround us are all completely unique to our life giving us a unique perspective on our life.
So, find your destination, find your home.
If you don’t know here you are going yet, then cruise along the highway and enjoy the scenery until you do. Contrary to popular belief, life isn’t a race, it’s a journey.
If you decide to drive where people tell you you ought to drive, you might end up arriving at a place which you don’t like. You might end up living in a stranger’s house.
As I grew up and left my highway racing days behind me, I started to travel in the government city buses to get to my college and back. A rookie mistake I made at the beginning was believe that if I got onto the bus that arrived first at the bus stop, I’d get to college earlier. I know better now.
Heaven only knows about all the mornings I would make it to the bus stop just as my bus would slow down, take a running leap onto the bus, congratulate myself on sticking the landing right on time, only to see ten minutes later on the road that another same-route bus would speed ahead from behind. Those were the days, I would silently beg my bus driver-uncle to drive faster. Few other days, my bus would zoom past the other buses on the street; those were the days I would act as a mental cheerleader for my driver-uncle and give him a huge smile and a ‘thank you’ as I got off the bus at my stop.
Lesson learned? Just because you’re the first one to depart doesn’t mean you’ll always be the first to arrive at your destination. But also, that even when you start your journey a little late, all you need is a little push on the accelerator and you can make it to your destination even before the early-worms.
This is actually very relevant to my life right now. For the past two months, I have been strategizing and planning my new academic year and all the things that I was going to do as soon as my college started.
Reality was quite different. I fell severely ill and spent my first day in college battling vertigo and exhaustion, bearing a splitting headache, and shivering in the hot sun. I barely remember making it back home that day. Then I promptly went to sleep for the next two days, waking up to virtually only eat, drink and swallow pills. I missed out on the first three days of college – all the happy reunions with friends, all the exciting exchanges of summer stories and just the whole vibe of the college campus coming alive with students after a long empty summer. But now, after three days, I’m back on my feet and I’m going to catch up on all the things I missed.
My car hit a little bump on the road, had a flat tyre, but now it’s all fixed and I’m ready to go! I’m driving to where I want to go. What about you? Are you driving to power through the race or feel the journey? Either way… ready, steady, go!