It’s not uncommon to feel that we are alone in our experiences: our happy memories or the times when life seemed to be mocking us. But the world is so nuanced that we may find the person we least expect to relate to us to be the one who understands us most. Our Georgetown community is constructed by individuals from all walks of life, each with their own unique history and valuable interpretations of the universe. We must learn to celebrate our differences because there is so much beauty in these variances of our individual selves, but we must never forget that as human beings there will always be something we share: a regret, a specific passion, a favorite song or even a very similar memory.
The purpose of this column is to tell the stories of three different persons under a specific subject which changes weekly. This way, we can get to know our community on a level that strays from superficialities and instead highlights an unforgettable truth: we are not alone. My hope with this column is that someone somewhere who feels like they are the sole sufferers of a certain scenario will realize they are not when they read the stories of one of their fellow Georgetown community members. Even if the individual has chosen to remain anonymous, I believe in the strength of a connection, even between strangers.
This week’s topic: One of your happiest memories.
Story 1, Muhammad Carter
Triumph is one of the biggest initiators of happiness. After all, winning is the natural goal of many people, be it through a promotion, an A on an examination or a reconciliation with a loved one. To win is to provide empirical evidence that one is living a good life. But then again, what is a good life?
Carter answers this question. Not with triumph, but with loss.
Four years ago, Carter’s father was diagnosed with a rare disease known as Guillain-Barre̕ syndrome, causing a paralysis from the neck down. In the long days that came after was a loss in the long-held stability of Carter’s family unit. The natural order of everything was struck by a hurricane, and one which had no mercy in its’ calamitous core. This hurricane tore through his normalcy and through the relationships between those he loves, leaving in its wake an almost broken family portrait.
Almost, because his family prevailed. They didn’t let the storm break them. In fact, they took all their sorrow and turned it into strength. When his father returned home, he was welcomed back to a place that brought itself back from the ravages of war and built a kingdom out of a sanctuary.
And perhaps this is what it means to live a good life. Success isn’t only measured by your riches or your networks; but by the struggles you overcame, the reminders that you’re fighting a battle every day and ceased to give in. Carter’s happy memory was born from the idea that his father came home to a stronger family. His success originally came from a loss. And so, the true measure of a good life is taking that loss and persevering through the pain. The thing you find at the conclusion of your perseverance will tell you that it was worth it all along. At the end of your road you will find your answer, and it will take many different forms. For Carter, it was the first dawn after a long storm.
Story 2, Anonymous
Dreams come in many different faces. Some of them are like finite expeditions into the world of infinite: a fantastical, but an ultimately impractical adventure. Other dreams take the more realistic approach, encompassing a more step-by-step completion of goals until the dreamer reaches their final destination. If this second form of dreaming limits their creators, then are they really dreams at all? This then begs a second question: are dreams that ultimately fulfill the individual, no matter how ‘realistic’ they may be, truly a confinement of the ‘what could’ve been’?
For her, the short answer is no.
She has always loved writing and pursued a journalistic undergraduate degree. Her dream was to publish a piece of work she wrote herself. She interned in many different places like CNN but eventually had to give it up when she married and had children. The hours on CNN were far too long for her to be able to juggle child-care and work at the same time, so she hung the journalism cloak up and replaced it with the robes of education. She was happy in the last twelve years in this profession, aiding others with their writing aspirations; but she never forgot her own. She longed to pick up the pen and compose her own work again; the creator’s unquenchable yearning to create. And so, last year, she finally decided to submit pitches to an education journal known as ‘Edutopia’.
They accepted her pitch, and she was able to publish two articles. Her dream came true. One of her happiest memories came when she decided to not live passively any longer, but to actively try to realize her dream; a dream that one can say was ‘realistic’. It was not outside the bounds of the real world, nothing that surpassed the laws of the universe. She could have dreamed a different dream, one which soared through space and time and reconstructed the world to fit her every whim and desire. But she didn’t. Yet she still felt that same inexplicable joy that a child, still very much sheltered from the regulations of reality, would feel if one granted them their greatest wish. The mere fact that she chose a realistic dream over the alternative does not mean she chained herself. Because a dream, to the very core of its being, is the same no matter what face it takes.
A dream gives you hope, a purpose, a push. Something to keep you going even when the reality is challenging you in every possible way. The real world might have some restrictions that a dream wouldn’t have, but you do not necessarily need to depart from it to feel that insurmountably beautiful feeling of hope. Nor do you need to turn to a world of fantasy in order to achieve happiness. Our physical, rational and logical world is inhabited by us, the human race, the creators and the dreamers. And it is up to us to infuse the world with the wonder it has the capacity to retain.
In short, dreams do come true.
Hers did. And so can yours.
Story 3, Anonymous
One of her happiest memories came the day the sky met the sea in a coalition of azure. It was a trip to the beach; a two-hour long drive, and to top it all off: a family reunion. The daily grind made it very difficult for one to spend time with their loved ones, free from the stress of work or school. But this was the opportune time for a getaway from this grind. She remembers that drive on a sunlit Friday when they stopped mid-way for snacks, drinks and to refill the gas. She remembers the gentle breeze humming its way through her hair. She remembers the feeling of soaking your feet in the ocean and the unwavering smell of sea-salt.
The walks beside the shore, building a sandcastle with her father, relishing the barbeque sandwiches and coke, watching the dune buggies conquer the sands. It was an unforgettable memory for her; not solely born from her simple love for the beach but because she was able to spend a blissful day with those she loves. It was her immediate and extended family, so everywhere she looked, she saw a different person with whom she shared a close connection with. Certainly, it is important to spend time alone sometimes to recharge and process that day’s events in peace. But being with people she loves amplifies any happiness she could possibly feel, transforming it into jubilation.
That day paints an important overall picture of relaxation and family; one that not only applies to her but to everybody around the world. Working hard brings many rewards, and she should always strive to better herself, no matter how slow the process is. But she also deserves to take some time off and give herself the reward of leisure! Burn-out is one of the most common consequences of working too hard for too long. It can often strip away the passion to work, diminishing both creativity and motivation. Therefore, it is vital to pause the cyclic schedule of work and school to perform activities that either stimulate the mind or give it a break. An activity outside of a mandatory schedule. Once the period of relaxation is over, she will feel refreshed and more tranquil.
She should also make sure to spend time with loved ones whenever she can. And the same goes for us, the outsiders of this story. As finite beings, our days are numbered. We do not know when our end will come, and so we should take every opportunity we can to create happy memories with the people we love. We all must try to live a life that diminishes regret to the smallest degree. It can be as productive as a family reunion at the beach, or as simple as a conversation with someone you were missing.