There was a period in my life where I was a horrible student. All through my high school to the first years of university. I was the student sitting in the back of the class, reading another book that had nothing to do with the subject. The one who skipped a period pretending to have an ulcer, because I didn't like the teacher (and the subject). The one whose single achievement was winning the essay competition on what's wrong with Indonesia's education system (ha!). I've always seen it as 'the dark ages', a phase where I wasted a lot of time; a time where I should have been more focused and determined.
I see some of my students who embody that ideal. They move fast, know what they need to achieve in order to progress further in their career. I smile upon their potential and promised success, because I know they will be better than I will ever be.
I was having yogurt with my 20 year old brother one day when we were talking about my PhD and the fact that I'm 27.
I: Tapi ada lho mahasiswa yang dapet beasiswa yang sama kaya aku, umurnya 25 wew.
Z: Kok bisa?
I: Ya lulus SMA langsung S1. Lulus S1 langsung S2. Lulus S2 langsung S3.
Z: Ya tapi kan dia emang rajin, Ka. Kaina kan sempet males-malesan banget, terus mutusin mau usaha dan berubah. Dan akhirnya sekolah dan sampe kaya gini.
I pondered on his argument and the logic behind it.
I guess it really is a personal journey. Life shouldn't be seen as a string of results, but a test as to how hard we try. It's not that other people are better than us or the other way around. But how we surpass the trials we face in life and come out a better person. A better person than we were yesterday, not a better person than somebody else.
When seen through this perspective, then my so-called 'dark ages' are not dark at all. It was a period where I questioned who I was when I was 17 and the education system did not give me answers. If it weren't for reading those philosophy books and reorganising the way I saw life, I would not be the person I am today.
So all those mistakes, all those regrets, when seen from this perspective are the aspects that mold us into more conscious human beings.
And it makes sense now, why I don't (well, rarely) compare myself to other people. Even if they're smarter, have achieved more, if they're wealthier or if they're salary is twice mine.
Because life isn't a competition. It's a journey, for every single one of us, to learn how to 'work our way around life'. It's never about the quantity of success, it's the quality of how these things make us better people. So let some people be more 'quantitatively fortunate' than others, because quality then becomes relative to each person.
After all, life is not about what we have, but what we do with what we have.