I mean to explore this question in a manner that seeks to gain an understanding of what being successful entails, and what we think of when we set life goals, where we hope to end up once we have crossed this particular stretch of time characterized by the so-called hard work- is it a way of life we envision for ourselves, a luxurious household and a life full of amenities and comforts? Or is it the search for a time where we could be less conflicted, more confident and fairly self-actualized? Or could it possibly be the aspiration of a good family, cultured behaviour and a life that was lived best in terms of relationships maintained?
The ‘Good Life’, in this age, like in every other age, would comprise such multitudes of answers that no spectrum would ever be able to contain the diversity. It could mean a good career for some, and a good family life for others- a bellyful of dinner for some, and pina coladas on a sandy beach for the others. Sometimes, it may come to mean the return to those old times, a nostalgic longing that one finds so difficult to shake off and at other times, it could imply a vision for the future yet to come, an age you can’t wait to be. A white picket fence, abundant wealth, the desire for middle class-ness, of education and stability, of love and luck, the chance to go back and undo that one little mistake- it could mean an escape from war, to live in peace at the place which you call home, an office at the swanky, new building in the town. The Good Life could measure your success in terms of what you contribute to the public society, or by the meter of your children’s achievement. Such is the elasticity of the Good Life.
A few years ago, I could not comprehend lack of ambition, the absence of a defining goal, the absence of knowing what you want out of life. As a child you’re taught to aim high: say you will be like Sachin Tendulkar, beta, the father says, say you will be an astronaut and fly into space. Nobody grows up thinking they will be a state level cricket player, or a simple agent at a tourism office. It is only in the lure of stability, and the kicking in of practicalities, that plans change.
Middle school teacher, she told me, I want to be a middle school teacher as I stared at her disbelief. What is the point of all this education, I thought to myself, of all the resources and the talks about life- is there a point to all this? But now I think, maybe, what is the problem in aiming for the usual, the path oft-taken, the vicinity to the comfort and security of the people you desire, and the unchallenged spirit? Of opening a little clinic, waking up late, chatting with your regulars, of being a middle school teacher and preoccupying yourself with the next maths test, of waking up, doing your chores and sitting to paint, without a higher purpose of being a great artist? As long as you can maximise the good times, and minimize the tumultuous ones, lead a happy healthy life full of food and love and laughter.
At the end of the day, they say, it all depends on what you want out of life. The Greek hero Achilles faced the dilemma of glory against love, and ambition against family and he chose the former- he went down in history as one of the greatest warriors, but never could enjoy that glory. He lost out on a lived life, a life filled with all sorts of emotions, but he gained the familiarity and the awe of generations yet unborn.
If it all depends on what you want out of life, then there can be no standards, no American milestones to cross by the age of twenty-five, no approvals needed for one to have really lived life, no visa stamps to prove the refinement of the mind. None is worse than the other, maybe, when it comes to ways of life, and since we are all savages in the end, no way of life better than the other.