Who interrupts the reunion?
A group of men, friends from college days, decided to meet in a bar one evening for a reunion. They were meeting after more than a decade, and were looking forward to this evening. That evening, after the usual pleasantries, exchanged amidst a lot of laughter, hugs and backslaps; they settled down on a table in the corner with their drinks. As they were warming up to each other, slowly, they started to talk about their lives.
One of them spoke about how he was very successful in his organization and just couldn’t wait to travel to Paris next month for a great opportunity at work. Another spoke about his beautiful family and remarked that his children are the smartest in town, having won several accolades already. He beamed with pride, as he spoke about them. Yet another guy, spoke about his wealth, his successful business venture, and him appearing in Forbes 40 under 40 list for the 3rd year in a row. It was not surprising to note how, as everyone started to talk about their achievements, they wanted to show the rest how their life has panned out better than that of anyone else in that group.
As every one were boasting his way into the evening, the pangs of jealously which planted itself in the corners of some minds initially, started growing and spreading its poisonous fangs across, making each of them feel pretty miserable about their own lives. Despite the loud declarations of their own success, wealth, and happiness, when benchmarked against others’ happier lives, their own life seemed way too ordinary in comparison. Slowly, every one of the men started wondering if the other was better off than him and couldn’t help but ponder on how nice it would be to swap his life with that of the other man, any man in that table for that matter, for every one else seemed to be better off than himself. That corner in the bar, occupied by this group, which started off as the loudest, retreated into painful silence, as those men got quiet, pondering over the good fortune of others, which, in their opinion, was clearly missing from their lives.
A wise bartender who had been watching this group right from the moment they walked in, walked up to them, and in an attempt to cheer them up, suggested they play a game. At the end of which, he promised, they could get their wishes fulfilled. As the bartender started explaining the rules of the game, the men realized he is definitely more than what meets the eye. The rules seemed deceptively simple, for starters. Everyone were given a paper and were asked to list down the biggest, nagging problem in his life without sugar coating any aspect of it. But as they were writing down, the imperfection of their lives started coming alive, on the paper, in vivid details, for everyone to see.
The man in Forbes 40 under 40 list is recently diagnosed of a terminal disease, because of which, he is now counting the last days of his life; the man whose children are apparently the smartest in town, just went through a messy divorce, and his ex wife took his children and moved far away from him; and the one who was supposed to be traveling to Paris next month just lost both his parents and was feeling regretful about not spending enough time with them when they were around. Everyone seemed to be dealing with something they were hiding from public’s eye. As the friends watched the true events of each other’s lives unfold, complete with messy details, they got quiet again. This time though, the silence was because none knew what to say, or who to console first, for everyone seemed to be facing some insurmountable challenge or the other.
The bartender interrupted the silence and reminded them that the game had just begin, he said the next step would be to swap their sheets with anyone else’s in that group which would entail them to swap their lives as well, all the good and the bad in it. They could then go home with a new sheet and an ensuing new life. By now everyone in the bar was watching this corner, at this men, who were playing a game of their lifetime. The entire bar was pin drop silent as they were waiting to see who would be the first to exchange his life with the other. The men looked at their sheets, then at each other, and as though they could read each other’s minds, tucked their sheets carefully and placed them inside their own pockets. Quite evidently, none dared to move ahead in the game. Everyone, unanimously, seemed to decide to be okay with their own lives, just the way it is, with its own unique set of blessings and challenges.
The bartender, with a knowing smile on his face, wished them well and left them to their bearings, as the crowd cheered the group and this wise bar tender for making everyone there realize their foolishness in wishing for a different life. Nobody though, noticed the bartender slowly retreat and disappear into thin air, for they were busy celebrating their own lives and enjoying every precious moment.
This may be a fiction, but here is what I know, we do not need any wise bartender to remind us of how shallow the world that we live in today is. The world where, everyone is constantly bombarded by filtered Insta images, WhatsApp statuses and Facebook updates of so many seemingly beautiful lives. The world in which, if we want to, we could spend every moment of our day watching others lead picture perfect, spectacular lives.
I am guilty of posting enough of such seemingly happy pictures myself and have also contributed to the shallowness. But then, no amount of happy pictures, with the brightest of the smiles, have gotten me half as much love, as the posts I have written about in recent times, about my struggles and failures. The love that came in form of messages, phone calls, emails, and even in-person visits from many I know, and so many I do not know, is quite overwhelming, in a good way of course. Between a couple of years back when I started to write about the stigmatization of my singlehood, to now, when I spoke up about being a survivor of suicide loss, I have received a ton of love from every corner of the world.
By watching me be unashamedly myself, I was told, many of ’em no longer feel bad about their own lives. Because, in their eyes, my words made it evident that they were not alone in leading imperfect lives. Honestly, I started writing only because of the comfort I found in written word; I did not realize then that it would offer comfort to other hurt souls as well. I did not realize that there are so many hurt souls around, and that everyone, in some way or the other is struggling and suffering through life. Many who wrote / spoke to me, even went on to share in detail some of the challenges they were dealing with, and trust me, they were all heartbreaking in their own way.
So here is my take based on the conversations I have had so far : depression is real, anxiety is even more real and life is indeed very challenging for many! Thanks to our strive for perfection, or rather our strive for making the world believe that we are leading picture perfect lives, this simple fact, is not as evident as it should be. Because of some twisted way of thinking, we have it ingrained in our system that to gain respect, love and admiration, we need to put up a show for others to watch and gape at. It may possibly get some attention, but I doubt if that would get us any love, respect nor any modicum of true admiration.
In this perfection induced world that aims to make everyone jealous of the other, let’s break away from the vicious cycle and be real for a change. The world would still turn back and look at us, not with jealousy any more, but with a lot of love, empathy and respect. Because, perfection is overrated, but vulnerability never is.
Featured Image Credits: Unsplash