Life Is Hard, But Only If You Let It Be
It was probably 40 degrees centigrade outside, with no shade in sight except for this massive tree in the middle of the settlement. That tree, being the only source of shade, inevitably became the meeting point to discuss important matters.
Important matters, in this accidental village, came down to survival needs like food, water, and shelter. Especially water. You see, this refugee camp in Uganda became a permanent village, but it was never meant that way. Refugees were placed there and given close to no resources for survival.
They had two ponds a few kilometers away. That was their main source of water, and even those dried out with summer’s heat. When it wasn’t dry, it was contaminated beyond measure.
I was sent there as a photographer to document the situation. The goal was to raise awareness and funds to build a borehole well so that they’d never run out of water again. Thankfully, we ended up succeeding.
I never expected that I’d be the star of the trip. Kids ran to me and wanted to have their photos taken. It just might have been the first time in their life that they had a photo of themselves taken.
The kids were dirty, unsurprisingly. Some of them likely never took a bath or a shower. When you have to choose between drinking water or clean yourself, the choice is pretty obvious. Most of the adults showered once a week. And all that without soap. Kids raised in the village never really saw soap. Some of them even thought it was food when we gave it to them.
The lack of quality water and hygiene led to diarrhea. And for those who don’t know, in poor countries, it’s the leading cause of deaths. You can imagine the urgency of bringing these people water and soap.
So, as a photographer, I looked around and walked with the kids, meeting new people from the village and taking photos along the way. I documented the situation. Adults had a grim face, as one would expect. They had lived through real shit in their lives.
But the kids were oblivious to all that. To say that these kids were the happiest kids I had seen in my life would be an understatement. They had nothing, lived in the worst conditions in the world, worked from the age of 5, and yet, they were happy as humanely possible.
“How is that even possible?” I wondered.
Life is simple. We make it hard.
We created needs that didn’t exist. The more complex our lives become, the less happy we become. I mean, the happiest man alive is a Buddhist monk. You bet his life is not needlessly complex like the one most of us live in. I bet the pandemic had no impact on his life. I bet the pandemic had no impact on the village’s kids either.
When you have nothing to lose, you fear nothing. And that lack of fear opens up for increased happiness, I’d argue.
The kids from the village live every day like it’s their last day. They don’t complain about their situation. It’s how it is and they’ve accepted it. They’ve accepted that life is hard. They turned the page and said: “there’s not much I can do about it, so might as well just get with the flow and enjoy it while it lasts!”
Life isn’t technically hard. We make it hard. You choose for it to be hard. But it’s not the only way.
The pandemic hit the world pretty hard. In my 34 years of life on Earth, I’ve never seen this level of pessimism before. Even I, an eternal optimist, started to succumb to pessimism at times.
I want to travel again. I want to meet new people. I want to learn and experience things alongside other human beings. Of course, it’s not possible. But I crave it as if it was an actual need. It isn’t.
Life is simple. You wake up, eat, play, eat, go to sleep. Rinse and repeat, day after day for the rest of your life. Mundane? Sure. Boring? If you choose it to be, yes. Hard? Nope. At least, not for most of us.
The kids in that Ugandan village taught me one very important lesson: if you just go with the flow, you can be happy. Something is hard only if you tell yourself that it’s hard. Hard is a perspective. It’s subjective.
Is it hard to live with no water or soap? Not if you’ve never had an abundance of it in your life.
Is it hard to live during the pandemic if you’re healthy? Not really. Again, it’s a matter of perspective. If it’s the hardest thing you’ve been through, then sure, you’ll find it hard. For people who go with the flow, it’s just a bump in the road. Life goes on and they don’t let that affect their happiness.
What do you consider hard in your life? Why do you think it is hard? Do you think other people find it hard? How can it be made easy?
Hardship is an illusion. It exists only because you let it exist. But you have a choice. You can choose for it to be part of your life, or you can decide against it.
When I find myself complaining about a dire situation, I remind myself that life is simple. When you keep it that way, life isn’t hard. This brings a smile to my face, just like the happy kids from the village. If they can be happy, so can I. And so can you.
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