True value of hardships

Asia Society, Hong Kong, 2016

20 September 2016, Hong Kong

Today I had an epiphany.

Before, I never understood religious people thanking god for the hardships he has given. It is unrealistic and naively idealistic to desire a struggle-less life, but it sounded idiodic and a bit overplayed to be grateful about difficulties that he precisely granted his beloved sons and daughters. Surprisingly, this morning I’ve come to understand it.

Let’s say we are born with a fairly sane and peaceful mindset. Babies are usually harmless — of course unless you leave a firearm near them — so I guess most of us are born without stressing over our future, past, having a job, not having a job, loving, not loving and whatnot. However, as we grow up, we start facing disappointments in every possible department (future, past, having a job… you get it) and probably throughout the lifetime. So our initial state of tranquility is disturbed. Depending on the degree of hardships and also depending on an individual’s tolerance level, one reacts differently; some find it too hard to manage and go insane; some do keep it under control, or at least under other people’s radar while suffering within; some find a way to retrieve that initial state of peacefulness.

I’ve always had a beyond-average-opitimistic outlook in life, but that doesn’t mean I never suffered. In fact, I did more so than often. I have been one of those who’d put ‘I’m fine, thank you and you?’ mask on my face even on the harshest days. I would clench my teeth to feign a smile. That would usually result in a deteriorated state of mind. I knew I had to change it. So I’ve been working on it for years.

And this morning, I had an epiphany.

I suddenly felt a warm, fluffy and tickling sense of peace that made me happy. I’ve had this feeling before, but it rarely lasted an hour, if not 10 minutes. This time, it’s been lingering on for awhile, only to expand over time. I realized why:

Through the process of regaining — or in some cases, discovering — the peaceful state of mind, one becomes thoroughly mindful; more awake at his/her core and to the extremities of one’s senses. It is through difficult times that one reaches enlightenment. One is no longer shaken by the external conditions and is able to stand upright in an unfaltering manner no matter what.

When everyday is bright and sunny, one rarely realizes the beauty of glowing sunlights coming in through a window. One can’t appreciate the value of the sunlight. Only after a seemingly neverending path through a dark tunnel, when one reaches the end, even the tiniest ray of light brightens the soul. The fog becomes the source of enlightenment. The darkness becomes the reason for illumination.

I would have never sought for this peaceful state had I not suffered in the first place. It’d have been nice to have kept that peacefulness I had as a baby but let’s be real, who would? Probably not even Dalai Lama.

That’s how I understood why some would thank god for the struggles that they’ve suffered: because they are left with a satisfying sense of achievement that they’ve endured the hardships, survived and grown up: not just lived a life as it goes, but made it through: spread the wings after weeks and months (in my case, years) of being cramped inside a tiny egg.

Sometimes, when we look back once the fog that has been blinding us is lifted, we feel like a fool to have been lost on the way. But that is the exact evidence of growth, hence the value of hardships. We have successfully thinned out and escaped the fog that used to block our vision. And that’s why it seems all too simple and straightforward when we look back.

And that is the true value of hardships. It hardens you. It makes you mature. It helps you find that peaceful mind that you are born with.

So with this quasi-immaculate sensation inside me now, am I 100% sure that my life will be struggle-free? I don’t think so. Some things are gonna hurt, some might shatter me into pieces, but I’m not worried. I made it this time, and I’ll make it through next time too. And by the end of it, it will be worth it. It is totally worth it.

Thank you for being here. I’m glad to share my moments and ideas with you. I’m Jieun Choi, soon-to-be-a-graduate, photographer without a camera and a writer who writes in English and Korean. If you are wondering how I achieved this state of peacefulness, read this.

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