As has been the norm over the past handful of years, I patiently and thankfully started responding to the well wishes streaming in from earlier in the morning. It was my birthday, and social media does a great job reminding me and others about it. And yes, it does make me feel special and good, at least for my birthday. What’s not normal this time was me reflecting on my life journey thus far.
It started off with my career. I ask myself if I’ve achieved anything worthy to be proud of considering how young (or old) I am. While I tried to answer this, I quickly realized that this was such a superficial question. Superficial because there wasn’t a yardstick to measure what my so-called achievements would be or would’ve been. I hadn’t envisioned myself, let alone planned for it, on being whatever profession I’m in right now. The younger teenage me had no idea. So, how would I know if I was a success or not? If I had the vision to set a goal like ‘Be a millionaire by the age of 40’ or ‘be a leader of many people by the age of 45’, then perhaps I could gauge how far or close I was in achieving this goal in my career. I had none, and so I very quickly dismissed this as a stupid immature question to ask myself.
Then I asked myself, if not career, what would be a good question to ask regarding my many years on this earth? I flipped through my multiple roles in life. Son, brother, father, husband, Sikh, friend. There were so many roles to answer for this question. The lazy sod in me just completely gave up and the reflection process fizzled away. It fizzled away, also, because I had arrived into my office and the hectic schedule kicked in. There wasn’t much space and time to sit down and reflect.
An hour passed, and out of nowhere, a conversation with an office colleague reignited the reflection process. Why? Because it was about an acquaintance of ours who had recently passed away suddenly. There wasn’t any sign whatsoever, he exhibited healthiness. The shock was still reverberating for many of us. This forced me to ask the question again, office work be damned. But instead of the roles, I decided widening my scope to being a human and a soul over all.
To be able to answer in a way I would know how, I related the question back to how I would answer it if it concerned my career. This led me to wonder what my resume as a human and as a soul would look like.
My imagination then took me to a scene from a movie that I had watched decades ago. It was about someone who had just died, and is being introduced by an assistant (supposedly an angel) in a huge immigration-processing-like area, before it gets decided who or what he would be reincarnated into for his next lifetime. He was asked to watch videos of his life, to which he became regretful on some of the things he did or said. I further imagined myself in that situation, and how this video-resume of mine would look like.
Because we humans never think that we are inherently bad, our introspection would mostly be what about the good we’ve done all our lives. Rarely do we remember that mean thing we said to a loved one, nor do we remember ignoring a plea for help from someone we know or from a total stranger. We are, after all, infallible as humans. We are governed by our emotions, which sometimes bring out the not-so-good from us. This realization rapidly kicked in as I reflected further. “So, what’s the point?” I ask myself.
I was still hopeful. Perhaps I won’t be able to convincingly tell myself that I’ve done more good than bad, and that my karma would lead me to something desirable in my next lifetime. But I was hopeful that I have time to atone for my bad karma. We never know how long more would we be on this earth, but we can always start being a bit more conscious about doing more good, and lesser bad. I know this sounds too simplistic, but really, shouldn’t it be this simple?
As we tumble through our daily lives, going through the motions like some dry leave floating on a small stream, maybe knowing that our actions will be very important for the interview of our lifetimes would help us now in our life journey? I’d like to have a better answer to myself for my next birthday, as I expect to have more of this reflective exercise while my hair gets greyer.
Jagdesh Singh, a Kuala Lumpur-based executive with a US multinational company, is a father of three girls who are as opinionated as their mother
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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