Hardship and Growing Up

If behaviors displayed during childhood can be a predictor for success in adulthood, I could have seen myself being a gawky kid who fail at simple tasks from cleaning to running, not to mention constant failing behind at school and cognitive process of human behaviors. But now here I am, still trying to pave off mediocrity, but studying in Europe with scholarship, manage to run after severe damage to backbones, and have finally developed a great sense of empathy towards fellow human.

Hardship is a part of life. Observing wildlife and any species at young age, survival skills have been embedded in young animals since birth, the strategy to survive, to prevail their predators and competitors in the race for food, mate and better livings. Small kittens learn to stay quiet when the mom is not around, young giraffe has to stand the moment it’s out of the womb, barnacle goose chicks have to jump off hundred meters tall cliff at one month old. Life is tough for animals, they have become wiser to deal with harsh changes (the existence of human beings), the survivors are the one who learn to cooperate and live with us.

Life has been more generous to human beings. In most part of the world, child mortality has been declining with astonishing rate and been extremely low in countries with advanced health care and education system. Most of us have grown up without feeling of hunger, having to work days after days without a stint under the scorching sun or freezing cold or being illiterate until adulthood. No. We, me and you, and whoever can use digital devices to read this article is truly lucky, than more than a billion people living with under 1 dollar/ day.

I was born after the American war in Vietnam, after the great famine who killed off 2 millions people, after the depression that left my grandparents and my parents living on the edge of malnutrition. I was born at the time Cocacola and Honda entered the country, bringing in fresh air of Western economics and new money. Our generation and the next generation and the next one have become taller, bigger and stronger than our predecessors had even been.

But our minds are far from being mature. Many on social media have displayed extreme behaviors of bullying, apathy and ignorant of people’s situations and feelings. People are less resilient in the time of changes, being objected to thousands of criticism of being right or wrong, being confused in their journey to become adult, vulnerable and fragile and lack of skills to handle problems in their owns.

I spot the similar patterns in Western young people. There is no doubt that they are more liberated, outgoing and adventurous compared to Asian at the same age, however, we are all the same, kids who have things been so good for them. People get obsessed by materialism, judge themselves and others on the scale of how successful and beautiful they are. People waste foods who are just new and still edible, some don’t know how to live and cater for themselves basic needs without help, some live in mess without direction.

Sometimes I wonder why life is so difficult, why do I have to deal with this, what have I done wrong to deserve this?

I was outraged and crying because of unfairness and things I supposed I deserved.

But then I realize I have overcome some of this before, hardship but with less stringent maybe, but it made me who I am now. I jumped from a smaller pond to a bigger pond, maybe not a sea yet, and then I have encountered with bigger competition, more fierce predators and unfamiliar neighborhood. I am unprepared to survive on this environment.

I need to stack up more skills, knowledge and strength to survive in this environment. I become a smaller fish in a bigger pond. I’ve become less pugnacious toward friends and people who have been struggling to push through like me. We are in the same pit.

I saw people bashing each other online and joined in heated argument with people who yearn for apocalypse to happen. This kind of thoughts sickens me to my stomach. Growing up with parents whom lived in the war and witnessed loved ones die, had to live with less than 500 gram of meat per month and lack of proper hygiene, I treasure every moment I have with family and wish bad things would have never happened to them. The same for old people of earlier generation, they suffered enough to know what is precious to them. Young people, on the other hand, have lived in more comfortable life with proliferating spending to trivial stuffs may not be able to comprehend those hardships.

Hardship is not only for the sake of surviving, it’s for better understanding of fellow human beings and develop empathy that we need to enrich our life. Modernization is unstoppable and constantly transforming the world. There are more new forms of hardship and struggling compared to previous generations. However, we also do have many more means to escape reality and problems than ever. What should we do to prepare ourselves for the life ahead which we don’t know? Should we stay in one place forever and play it safe? Should we advance to a new level, suffer and grow? Or fail while trying?

Whatever struggle and hardship we are going through, it’s bitter and hard, but let be confident that we will make it through. And we will survive, being tougher and more resilient.




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